Where Opal is found
Lightning. Galaxies. Fireworks. Rainbows. What these names share in common are mystifying visuals and dances of colors. They are objects we can’t ever put in the palm of our hands, yet holding an opal gemstone will do just that. The opal gemstone and its flashing display of colors will create the illusion that you have trapped all the colors of the color wheel inside a bottle.
Opal is a hydrous silicon dioxide that can contain up to 20% of water inside its structure. The name is derived from the Sanskrit word for “stone” and is classified as a mineraloid rather than a mineral due to its amorphous form.
The precious class of opal can be divided further into five main categories:
- White or light opal – Semi to fully translucent with the play-of-color contrasted on a white or gray background.
- Black opal – From translucent to opaque highlighting the dance of colors against a black or dark background.
Fire opal – Transparent to translucent possessing a brown, yellow, orange or red bodycolor. Sometimes referred to as the Mexican Opal
- Boulder opal – Having fragments of surrounding rock part of the finished gem emphasizes the play-of-color of a translucent to opaque nature against a light to dark background.
- Crystal or water opal – The exceptional play-of-color against a clear background.
While other gemstones portray a single or a few colors of the rainbow, opal has the colors of all the other gems which the Romans thought to be the most precious and powerful of all. They named it – opalus, the precious stone. The Roman scholar Pliny wrote in 75 AD “Some opali carry such a play within them that they equal the deepest and richest colors of painters. Others…simulate the flaming fire of burning sulphur and even the bright blaze of burning oil”.
Arabic legends accredit the colors of opal to the gemstones fall from the heavens capturing the flashes of lightning. The Ancient Greeks adorned this rock, believing it possessed the ability and gift of prophecy as well as guarding the wielder from disease.