Celebrating the rainbow colors of the opal, October’s birthstone

Throughout history, opal has been regarded as the luckiest and most magical of all gems because it can show all colors.” So, whether you’re an October birthday baby—or just love the mystery and depths of this beautiful gemstone, treat yourself to a piece of lightning here on earth. 

Types of opals

The flashing colors in the opal are called “play of color.” Where does the shimmer come from? From millions of small spheres of silica with water trapped in them. These spheres refract the light and cause us to see all of the shining colors.

The experts at the GIA classify opals into five categories:

  • White or light opal: Translucent to semi-translucent, with play-of-color against a white or light gray background color.
  • Black opal: Translucent to opaque, with play-of-color against a black or dark background.
  • Fire opal: Transparent to translucent, with brown, yellow, orange, or red body color.
  • Boulder opal: Translucent to opaque, with play-of-color against a light to dark background.
  • Crystal or water opal: Transparent to semitransparent, with a clear background.

Cool facts about opals…

  1. They’re believed to be formed by rainwater. When water drips down into crevasses in the rock and then evaporates, silica is left behind. It dries out and hardens into the opal.
  2. The name “opal” comes from the Greek word, opallios, which means, “to see a color change.” An ancient Roman historian wrote that an opal is a “kaleidoscopic gem that encompasses the red of ruby, the green of emerald, the yellow of topaz, the blue of sapphire, and the purple of amethyst.”
  3. Early Greeks believed opals gave the wearer powers of foresight and prophecy; in Arabian folklore, it was believed that they fell to earth from heaven in flashes of lightning. Romans saw the gem as a token of hope and purity.
  4. Did you ever hear that opals are bad luck? According to the GIA, that superstition began in a novel in the 1800s. But Queen Victoria changed that image by giving opals to all of her daughters and special friends.


Taking care of your opal jewelry

  • The chemical composition of opals includes water molecules, which causes it to rate a 5-6.5% on the Mohs hardness scale. With only about half the hardness of a diamond, you can see why it pays to be careful with these stones.
  • Don’t put an opal under direct heat or in contact with chemicals since it becomes porous and can easily be scratched or broken. According to the GIA, the best way to clean an opal is with soapy water—nothing stronger.

Since opals are soft, you need to protect your precious jewelry with insurance…and an up-to-date appraisal. One call to 617-304-0174 is all you need to start.

Opalescently yours, Aimee

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