The Colorful Opal: October Birthstone
October, it is my birth month too! October has two beautiful birth stones: Opal and Tourmaline. I will write about tourmaline later this month, so let’s talk a little about opal. Opal, which is actually hydrated silica, is a very soft and delicate stone. On the hardness scale it is only 5.0-6.5. I normally don’t work with it much because it is very delicate, but I started to make more opal jewelry lately because it is so beautiful.
I just love the play of color. The remarkable variety of patterns and colors are caused by the diffraction of light by small silica spheres deposited in the stone during its formation. The arrangement of silica spheres is never the same so no two opals are exactly alike. Opals are often cut in irregular shapes to keep as much color as possible. On the right are my one-of-a-kind Blue Fire earrings.
The most important source of opals is Australia, which began mining opals commercially in the late 1890s. Mexico is famous for producing fire opals, while Brazil and Peru are known for white opals and blue opals, respectively. The Wollo Province in Ethiopia and Nevada in the United States also produce a variety of opals. An interesting fact about opals is that they contain up to 20% water!
Opals have always been thought of as the luckiest and most magical of gemstones because of their ability to display all of the colors. They are also said to be important for the health of eyes, hair, skin and nails. In ancient Rome the stone symbolized love and hope. Ancient Greeks believed that it protected them from disease while Europeans always thought of opals as symbols of hope, purity and truth.
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