They may be made of hydrated silica, sometimes containing up to 20% water, but opals sure aren’t watered-down! These flashing, fiery October birthstones are highly valued both for their exquisite beauty and their fantastically diverse range appearances. Opals were even considered the penultimate gemstone by ancients such as Pliny the Elder, who lauded them for the belief that they were composed from bits of every other type of precious gem.
This kaleidoscopic array of color can often be seen in the form of “fire,” or floating shards of visible colors varied and splendid, suspended within the translucent body of each opal. These fractured colors come to be when lightwaves pass through the infinitesimally tiny spheres that make up the structure of the mineral opal.
Opals are relatively soft gemstones; about 5.5-6 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, and should be treated with care as much as worn with pride. If you are lucky enough to own this shimmering gem, we recommend keeping it away from harsh cleaning chemicals, and opting instead to clean it with water and a soft-bristled brush. Bezel-set opals, and opals worn as earrings and necklaces are also fantastic ways to keep your precious gem away from hard knocks.
The Virgin Rainbow, the world’s finest opal, recently made headlines upon its discovery in Australia. It was ultimately valued at over one million dollars for its exquisitely lustrous fire that the discoverer, John Dunstan, claims can even glow in the dark! Now that’s an illuminating ore.