What is an Opal?
October is here and with it brings the beautiful, shimmering gemstone, Opal. Formed millions of years ago, it was found in desert areas where heavy rains during rainy season would soak the dry ground. The rainwater carried a dissolved mineral, called silica, into cracks inside the rocks and when the water dried, the silica deposits were left in layers which formed the Opal. While found all over the world, including Africa, Europe, the Americas and Asia, gem experts agree that the best specimens of Opal come from Australia.
You may not realise that the influence of opals is everywhere. Think about shimmering eye makeup, sequinned dresses or metallic car paint with flecks of colour that glimmer in the light... the impact this gemstone has had on fashion, beauty and design is huge!
The History of the Opal
Historical evidence suggests that Opal was first mined in Virgin Valley, North America, over 10,000 years ago and was then used in artefacts in Kenya 6,000 years ago. It´s also said that the Aztecs were mining opal in South and Central America around the same time.
Opal was discovered in Australia at Lightning Ridge, New South Wales in the late 1880s and the first shaft was dug in 1901 or 1902. While it did not appear on the world market until the 1890´s, today it is the national stone of the country and 95% of the world´s market is supplied by Australia. Prior to the emergence of Australian opal on the market, opal was sourced primarily in Hungary and South America.
What does it mean?
Opals are incredibly unique. The way they reflect light in every colour of the rainbow makes them a precious symbol and a special gift. Additionally, if your loved one was born in October, the opal birthstone will have extra-special meaning.
Opal is said to possess great healing properties. It´s believed to not only kickstart your creative heart but can also bring renewed hope, good karma, and bright balance. Opal can also be a good luck charm, helping the wearer to attract amazing things into their aura.
Legends & Lores
One of the most fascinating stories about Opals features the two famous lovers, Anthony and Cleopatra. Besotted by the Egyptian queen, Anthony wanted to give Cleopatra a truly special gift. He decided that only an Opal would do. Soon Anthony spotted an exquisite Opal ring. The only problem was that it belonged to a Roman Senator called Nonius.
Anthony tried to pressure Nonius into selling the ring, even offering him 4 times the ring´s value. But Nonius did not want to part with his precious Opal. Too scared to say `no´ to the powerful Anthony, he instead packed up his house, wife, children – and the ring – and fled Rome!
The indigenous people of Australia call Opal the rainbow gem. According to their lore, the Creator of the World came down to Earth walking on a rainbow. Once he reached the ground, his feet turned all the stones they stepped on into multi-coloured Opals. Today, Opal is Australia´s national gemstone.
Arabic mythology claims that Opals fell from the skies during lightning storms. The early Greeks believed that Opals could protect their owners from illness.