Opals are one of the most uniquegemstonesin the world, known for their unique iridescent, fire-like appearance. For centuries, people believed opals contained other stones inside of a single gem. Why? Because of the radiating patterns and color combinations. For example, spots of red were assumed to be ruby, green looked like emerald, and thus, each opal was rumored to be a cluster of different stones in one. As a result, opals are one of the most aesthetically pleasing and desirable stones for jewelry and contain a rich history of folklore and holistic use.
However, opals are the softest gem-quality stone in the market, requiring extra care to protect and preserve their luminous fire and sheen long-term.
In this article, we’re going to share all of the pertinent details of opal stones, from their various meanings to holistic properties to gem characteristics and value. Let’s dive right in!
What is Opal?
Opal is a gemstone that forms in a variety of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Unlike most gemstones, opal isn't a mineral but amineraloid. The composition is a hydrated (wet) amorphous silica with aMohs hardness scaleranking between 5.0 to 6.5.
The silica deposits that opal form in produce when rain and silicon dioxide seep into the ground; the mixture picks up evaporated silica from the sandstone along the way and it all settles into crevices that eventually dry up. What’s left behind is a silica deposit that builds up over time — we’re talking millions of years — and eventually forms large opal boulders and concretions.
Miners discover these deposits and cut away the host rock to procure rough opal stones which are then faceted (cut) into gemstones!
Some opals are speckled with different colors and hues, others are translucent, and many are found in light shades of pink or blue with an iridescent shine. There are two types of opal, determined by whatever color they take on during formation: precious and common. Precious opals display a striking optical effect like a rainbow calledplay-of-color, which we mentioned above. Common opals, however, do not display this feature, and that’s the primary distinction between the two opal classes.
Since we’re on the subject, let’s look more into the fascinating fire seen in precious opals.
What is opal play-of-color?
The termplay-of-colorrefers to the fire-like rainbow appearance of precious opals, which diffract light in different ways based on the internal structure of the stone and the angles you view it from. It’s easier to understand the concept as an optical illusion: light enters the stone, interacts with the internal structure, minerals, and shapes, and then leaves the stone in a flash of spectral colors. What you end up seeing is a vibrant mixture of colors and shapes that change as you move the stone!
It’s this remarkable feature that elevates opals into a class all their own.
Other terms for play-of-color include color-play, flashes, and fire. This type of "fire" is different from gemstonedispersion.
Of all the different types of precious opals, black opal is the rarest form (pictured below). The black color is actually abody tone, acting as a backdrop for the rainbow iridescence to dance and dazzle the eyes. Opaque greys, greens, and white are some of the most common body tones of precious opal that exhibit play-of-color. Beyond that, there are a few other ways to identify a gemstone in the opal family.
Specifications and Characteristics
Color: All colors, with black being the rarest. Precious opals will appear iridescent over whichever primary body tone they have.
Crystal structure: Amorphous solid (not crystalline)
Luster: Subvitreous to waxy
Transparency: Transparent to opaque;Typically translucent to opaque
Refractive index: 1.450 +0.020/-0.080
Now that you’ve identified an opal, what does it mean? Like all gemstones, history has attributed opal stones with a long list of symbolic meanings. Let’s dig a little deeper into opal meanings and symbolism next.
Opal Stone Meaning
Opal stone has a rich history of folklore that spans centuries. In Ancient Rome, opal symbolized love and hope. In other cultures, opal has been widely associated with royalty, good luck, and fortune. Because of its long history, opal meaning is sometimes attributed to conflicting symbolism and theories. Though it’s commonly seen as a symbol of good fortune, opal is also widely regarded to mean bad luck – it all depends on who you ask!
However, the truth is that opals don’t harbor bad luck, they’ve simply been associated as such in pop culture and literature. For thousands of years, opals represented good fortune. It wasn’t until the Black Plague in the 14th century that opal’s reputation took a downturn. Amidst this tragic health crisis, people believed that an opal’s colors were most bright when its owner was about to die. Allegedly, when they passed on, the opal lost all brilliance and fire.
Centuries later, Sir Walter Scott published Anne of Geierstein, and in the fiction tale one of the characters employs an opal talisman to obtain mystical powers, but when holy water drops onto the stone, the character dies immediately.
As you can see, opal’s reputation as a bad luck charm is purely myth and legend. There are real-life properties and opal benefits that vindicate this gem as one of the most treasured in the world.
Opal, the originalOctober birthstone, has also been linked to supernatural origins and powers, probably because of its otherworldly appearance. On thezodiac calendar,opal falls under Libra for birthdays between September 23rd to October 22nd.
The stone is widely viewed within cultures as a symbol of hope, purity, and truth, and was even said to have fallen from the heavens.
Opal Spiritual and Healing Properties
Holistic healers use opal to intensify emotions and cosmic consciousness. It’s often said that wearing opal enhances creativity and intelligence in the wearer, and heightens a connection to oneself. Some even believe that wearing an opal strengthens recall and memory.
For healing, opal stone may treat infections and fevers, while simultaneously purifying the liver and kidneys. Opal is an excellent stone for women, too, by alleviating menstrual cramps and easing childbirth pain. Opal healing properties are based on holistic health theories that have stood the test of time, with more and more people gravitating to the stone’s properties for physical, mental, and emotional healing.
Opal properties extend beyond just metaphysics. Next, we’ll examine some of the important buying factors to consider regarding opal gemstones.
Opal Gemstone Properties
Once extracted from the earth, opal stones are usually cut and used in fine jewelry. Gemologists have devised various methods for identifying high-quality opal gems, which involves analyzing their color, clarity, and pattern. Let’s use Mexican fire opal and Peruvian opal as prime examples.
What color opal is most valuable? In precious opal stones, a combination of rare background color and play-of-color is paramount. Black opal stones are the rarest, and as such, they command the highest prices. A more accessible product in the opal market is from Mexico: fire opal.Mexican fire opalshould be a bright, reddish-orange at its base. Stones with hints of orange, yellow, and blue iridescence are the most valuable because, well, they look like fire!
Clarity & Transparency
The clarity in opal is a measure of its transparency, which ranges from clear to milky. The desired level of clarity varies depending on the type of opal. Some opal stones are valued higher if they are more transparent. Others, likePeruvian opal, are valued for opacity to make them appear more blue or pink.
Pattern & Play of Color
In addition to clarity, the play-of-colorpatternsin precious opals will drastically change the value of each opal stone. There are dozens of opal patterns, but three you'll see discussed frequently are pinfire, flash, and harlequin. Pinfire patterns are small specks of color, flash patterns appear in larger sections, and harlequin patterns can be identified by large rectangular patches of color with touching edges. Harlequin patterns are the rarest and most valuable.
Value is primarily in the eye of the beholder, but universally, the more play-of-color, the better.
Just remember that if you look at an opal and feel mesmerized, it likely has a high-quality play-of-color! But it’s always best to refer to this opal guide or consult with a reputable gemologist or jeweler to ensure the gem’s qualities are up to par.
So how do all of these opal properties play into the stone’s history as a precious gemstone?
The earliest known uses of opal stone date all the way back to Kenya in 4000 B.C. The ancient artifact was discovered by archaeologists in a cave in 1939, but as mentioned, opal has spanned centuries, hiding in caves and crevices waiting for explorers to excavate them.
The Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, and other great ancient civilizations have revered and gifted opal to loved ones and great rulers. Opal wasn’t accessible to commoners until much later in the timeline of civilization.
We know that these radiant stones have a vibrant history, but where do opals come from?
Opal Stone Origins and Sources
Opal surfaced in small patches throughout different parts of the world for centuries, but in the 1890s,Australian opaltook the world by storm, and would quickly dominate the global opal supply and gemstone market.
Later, in the late 20th century, a startingly discovery rocked the opal market. Miners unearthed a striking new variety of opal in the Menz Gishe District of the Shewa province. Ethiopian Welo Opal now contributes the second-largest supply of opals in the world next to Australia.
Australia produces about 95% of the world’s precious opal. The land down under is also the only known place to find black opal, the rarest form of opal stone. Like many other gemstones, the landscape and chemical compounds present in the land influence which stones are produced. Australia’s dry climate and mineral-rich sandstone make up a perfect environment for a wide variety of gemstones includingdiamonds,sapphires,andjadestones.
Peruvian and Mexican fire opal stones are also common since they form in somewhat similar climates to Australia. Still, it’s important to understand the care and maintenance requirements of precious and common opal stones. With proper care, your opals will last a lifetime and more, making them treasured family heirlooms.
Care and Maintenance
Opal, like most other precious gemstones, should be handled with great care. Because the stones are so soft and watery, they can easily scratch, break, and chip, and should be set or wrapped with precision if used in jewelry. This is the best way to ensure that the stone is safe while wearing day-to-day.
Jewelers have creatively devised ways to protect opals to ensure they withstand daily wear and tear. Still, you’ll want to clean opals routinely to best display their vibrance and play-of-color.
To clean your precious opal stones, use a mild detergent and warm water. Scrub the gemstones only with a soft bristle toothbrush. Avoid bleaches and harsh cleaners at all costs, as they can damage your opal. Soaking and immersing them in water may also cause some damage, so don’t submerge your opal stones if possible. Better upkeep will help you maintain your stone’s value so it can stand the test of time.
Additionally, bring your opal stones into the jeweler for cleaning once or twice a year. The jewelers will be able to clean away any buildup or residue in the jewelry settings, as well.
Opal Prices and Value
Like all gemstones, opal is priced by carat weight, but due to the variety of stones in the market, the price per carat differs based on your stone. Common opal can cost as low as $10 per carat, but prices get up to $6,000 per carat for more rare, precious forms of opal gemstones — especially those exhibiting the most fire and unique color patterns.
Believe it or not, an opal stone called “The Virgin Rainbow” is valued at a whopping $1 million dollars. This amazing opal is currently the most expensive opal stone ever discovered and sits in the Southern Australia Museum in Adelaide. If the massive size, gorgeous black color, and all-over pattern of this stone weren’t enough, the play-of-color actually glows in the dark!
It’s not unusual for opal to be confused withmoonstonesand other iridescent gems, so it’s important to check the clarity and color when purchasing an opal stone. Buy from trusted sources and keep a watchful eye out for simulated opals.
In the Market for Precious Opal?
Before we conclude this opal guide: what is opal stone good for? Well, a lot of things really. Not only is opal a truly captivating and unique stone with magnetizing qualities, but precious opal is also exceptionally rare and almost exclusively Australian. If you’re ready to get your hands on an opal gemstone, you will also benefit from the mental, spiritual, and metaphysical benefits of wearing the stone regularly.
If you’re interested in purchasing opal, Opal Auctions is your trusted source with competitive pricing on high-quality opal stones.
For all of your opal needs and desires,visit Opal Auctions today!
It's often said that wearing opal enhances creativity and intelligence in the wearer, and heightens a connection to oneself. Some even believe that wearing an opal strengthens recall and memory. For healing, opal stone may treat infections and fevers, while simultaneously purifying the liver and kidneys.What are the properties and meanings of opal? ›
Opal Metaphysical Properties
The gemstone has been associated with the sacral chakra, imbalances of which can cause problems with addictions. Some people believe that opal can help moderate and harmonize sexual desires. European cultures have long believed opal is a symbol of hope, purity and truth.
Ninety-five percent of the opals are used for jewelery, ornament and collector's market in precious stone applications. These opals are often rewarded for their colors and designs. Some people use as part of gemstone therapy or as a focal point during incantation practices.What value does opal represent? ›
Common opals may range in value from $10 USD to $500 USD per carat. Precious opals are rare and therefore command a much higher price range, a high quality 1 carat opal that's classified as Extra Fine can sell for between $8,000 – $20,000 USD per carat. What does an opal symbolize?Does opal have any special properties? ›
Opal enhances cosmic consciousness and induces psychic and mystical visions. It stimulates originality and creativity. Helps to release anger and claim self worth, aiding in accessing and expressing one's true self. Opal strengthens memory.What are the powers of opals? ›
The ancient Greeks believed opals gave their owners the gift of prophecy and guarded them from disease. Europeans have long considered the gem a symbol of hope, purity, and truth.What magical properties does the opal stone have? ›
Opal enhances cosmic consciousness and stimulates flashes of intuition and insight, yet is a protective stone for deep inner work, meditations, and lower world shamanic journeys.What does opal protect you from? ›
The opal has long been considered a lucky and protective talisman. During the Middle Ages, it was believed that if you wore an amulet containing opal, then you would be protected from failing vision and that your mind and memory would be strengthened.
If you were born in the month of October, your birthstone is the opal. Perhaps more than any stone, the opal is cloaked in mystery and legend. One of the better-known legends about the opal is that it's bad luck to wear one -- and even more so if it's not your birthstone.Who should wear opal? ›
Who should wear Opal? Opal is highly recommended to someone, who has Mahadasha or Antardasha of Venus (Shukra) in the horoscope. Indian astrology assigns Opal ratna for Tula (Libra) and Vrishabha (Taurus) rashi. Western astrology recommends opal birthstone for Libra sign.
It is considered to enhance the creativity and artistic abilities of a person. Opal is believed to bring good fortune, peace, joy, and wealth to the wearer.What is the biblical meaning of opal? ›
In effect it means Judas turned his back on the light of Christ. He chose to stay in the dark. In our own lives, like the opal, the imperfections we deplore in ourselves may be the means by which we reflect the lovely hues of God's love.Can opals be worn everyday? ›
You can wear Opal every-day, it is so versatile!. You can swim in it, shower, do the dishes. Just remember that any gemstone will crack or chip if it comes into contact with a hard surface (even Diamond) so make sure you have a strong setting. This is why bezel settings are great for Opal.What type of value does opal bring? ›
Generally, opals with a black or dark body tone are more valuable than those with a white, light, or crystal body tone, because a stone with a darker body tone tends to display colors more vibrantly. Black opal is the most prized type of opal and may earn prices over $10,000 USD a carat.Why is opal supposed to be gifted? ›
Throughout history, the gift of opal has been a deeply personal one, as many believed that these stones contained powers of protection; because of this, when an opal was received, it was therefore cherished, and protected by its wearer. As a gemstone, opal has always been associated with love and passion.Why is opal so special? ›
However opals are unique because they display a rainbow-like display due to their intrinsic microstructure which diffracts white light into all the colours of the spectrum.What is the impact of opal stone? ›
Opal turns its wearer into a loving, caring and affectionate person. It also enhances the mutual understanding between the couple and increase the love. To attain peace and satisfaction in life, people prefer to wear an Opal. This gemstone is known to open the spiritual third eye of the wearer.How do you energize an opal? ›
Before wearing an Opal gemstone, keep it immersed in a bowl having 1 spoon of Curd, Honey, Gangajal, Tulsi leaves and Ghee for 10 minutes. This will activate and cleanse your Opal and remove all its impurities. After your regular prayers, take the ring out of this mixture and wash it with pure Gangajal.Does opal have negative effects? ›
Side Effects of Wearing an Opal Stone
People have said that when people with other birthstones wear opal, it will be a reversal of fortunes. Unlike all the positive influence opal has on a Libra, opal on anyone else brings a decline in prosperity, marital discord, strain in relationships, and so on.
Opals have two significant weaknesses as jewelry stones: a low Mohs hardness and significant water content. This results in a "Poor" grade.
Opals. Throughout much of history, opals were actually believed to be good luck. The Romans thought that opals were one of the luckiest gemstones and a symbol of hope. In the Middle Ages, opals were believed to be bestowed with all the positive properties of coloured gemstones due to its rainbow-like play of colour.Can opal be worn in left hand? ›
One can wear this gemstone as a pendant or ring. You should wear this gemstone in your Index finger of the right hand. For women, it is beneficiary to wear opal gemstone in their right or left hand. Silver metal should be preferred for wearing opal gemstone.What chakra is opal? ›
Obsidian Opals - Root Chakra - helps with feelings of security, confidence and self-esteem. Yellow Opals - Solar Plexus Chakra - deals liver, stomach and gallbladder problems.Which colour opal is best? ›
Brightness - brightest is best. Colour - purple is the most common colour, then blue, then green, through gold then orange to red, which is the most rare and therefore valued most highly. Pattern - some patterns, like Chinese Writing or Harlequin, are more rare than others, like Pinfire.Which stone is luckiest for wealth? ›
Citrine, also known as 'The luck merchant's stone' which activates crown chakra is used for financial gains and manifesting money. It is advisable to keep this gemstone in cash drawers or wallets of businessmen.Which stone is best for money luck? ›
The best crystals for money are gems that invite abundance. Citrine is known as the merchant's stone, Pyrite is called fool's gold, Green Jade brings luck and abundance, and Green Aventurine is a dab hand at attracting wealth.Which stone is for wealth and fortune? ›
The best crystals for wealth are Pyrite, Malachite, Aventurine, Tiger's Eye, Citrine, Green Jade, Garnet, Clear Quartz and Iolite.What is the spirituality of opal? ›
The Opal stone represents amplification, higher hope, and divine purity. These light dancing gemstones are here to boost those feelings of balance and peace and to help you to sift through your thoughts and feelings and throw out what doesn't work. The Opal is also about deeper spirituality.What God is associated with opal? ›
Greek mythology stated that opals originated from Zeus' joyful tears after winning the battle against the Titans. Meanwhile, Australian aborigines believed that the Creator came to Earth on a rainbow, leaving these colorful stones where his feet touched the ground.What does the name opal mean spiritual? ›
Origin:Sanskrit. Meaning:Precious stone. Widely known for the beautiful multi-colored gem, the name Opal originates from Sanskrit, meaning “precious stone.” This gem carries with it a multi-faceted symbolism such as “faithfulness” and “confidence” that baby can resonate with.
Some people do store their opals in water. There's no evidence that it prevents them from drying out but it can't hurt them and might be a good idea if you live in a very dry climate. Jewelers often put a glass of water in their opal case to make sure that the lights don't dry out the air too much.Can opals go in water? ›
Myth: Water damages solid opals. Never clean your opal with water or get your opal wet. The opal will expand and crack. Fact: Solid opals cannot be damaged by getting wet.What is the lifespan of opal? ›
If cared for properly, opals can last a lifetime, and you can pass them down as heirlooms.What is the highest value opal? ›
That honor goes to the Flame Queen opal, the most expensive opal in the world that sold for the modern-day equivalent of over $3 million. The Flame Queen opal has a couple of other names — it's also called the “Fire Queen” opal and “Dunstan's Stone.”What color opal is the most expensive? ›
Black opal is the most prized opal and may realise prices over AUD $15,000 a carat. Boulder opals also have a dark body tone. White opals have a light body tone and are generally the least valuable form of opal.How much is pure opal worth? ›
|A carat of opal||$1 – $20,000|
|A gram of opal||$5 – $100,000|
|An ounce of opal||$140 – $2,834,950|
|A kilogram of opal||$5,000 – $100,000,000|
The opal has long been considered a lucky and protective talisman. During the Middle Ages, it was believed that if you wore an amulet containing opal, then you would be protected from failing vision and that your mind and memory would be strengthened.What does opal stone mean energy? ›
The Opal stone represents amplification, higher hope, and divine purity. These light dancing gemstones are here to boost those feelings of balance and peace and to help you to sift through your thoughts and feelings and throw out what doesn't work. The Opal is also about deeper spirituality.Why are opals lucky? ›
The early Greeks believed the opal bestowed powers of foresight and prophecy upon its owner, while in Arabian folklore, it is said that the stone fell from heaven in flashes of lightning. The Oriental traditions referred to them as “the anchor of hope”. Lucky opal – the stone of hope, the birthstone of October.What happens after wearing opal? ›
Opal turns its wearer into a loving, caring and affectionate person. It also enhances the mutual understanding between the couple and increase the love. To attain peace and satisfaction in life, people prefer to wear an Opal. This gemstone is known to open the spiritual third eye of the wearer.
Opal gemstone must be worn on Friday morning of Shukla Paksh (waxing moon) in the middle or ring finger of your right hand. Before wearing an Opal gemstone, keep it immersed in a bowl having 1 spoon of Curd, Honey, Gangajal, Tulsi leaves and Ghee for 10 minutes.