Uncover the Mystery behind Opal

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

Opal - the most bewitching and mysterious gem. It is known as the symbol of hope, purity and truth. This magical stone promotes unconditional love and enhances imagination and creativity. Once known as the “Queen of Gems”, it shows wonderful flashes of pink, blue and green.


After dreaming of this alluring gemstone for so long, I decided it was time to add an Opal Ring to Tsarina Gems collection and offer it for purchase! Keep reading for more exciting details.


rough opal in host rock showing play of colour on a rock

But have you ever wondered, what is an opal? What causes its kaleidoscope colours?

To learn about such a playful stone, lets begin with some fun facts:


  • The word opal is derived from the Latin word ‘opalus' and means precious stone.

  • The Romans believed that opal was the most precious and powerful of all the gemstones as it shows the colours of other gems, thanks to its magical play-of-colour.

  • It is also an October birthstone, along with tourmaline. Read more about your birthstone here.

  • Many cultures believe in its supernatural origins and powers.

  • The Bedouins believed that opals contained lightning and fell from the sky during thunderstorms.

  • Opal contains up to 20% water trapped in its silica structure.

  • It was Queen Victoria’s favourite gemstone.

  • Opal was thought to have the power to preserve the colour of blonde hair. I wish!

  • Opals are usually fashioned as cabochons, rather than faceted gems. In other words, they have one flat side and one side shaped like a dome. A cabochon cut helps display play-of-colour and is less likely to chip.


oval white opal cabochon dome showing play of colour on a beige background


Formation


Now let's get down to science! Opal forms in silica rich rocks, typically in dessert areas with strong seasonal rainfalls. As rainwater seeps down through the cracks, it picks up silica solution and carries it down. As the sun dries the landscape, the water in the cracks evaporates, leaving silica behind which creates opal deposits.

We are talking about a process that takes place over millions of years!


demonstration of opal formation showing fractures and cavities in rock and opal deposit

Play-of-colour

Opal is know as a “phenomenal” stone as it shows a phenomena known as a play-of-colour. It does not show all colours of the rainbow, but rather a combination of blue-green and/or pink.


To explain the science behind it, I’d like to quote Gemological Institute of America (GIA):


“Play-of-colour occurs because opal is made of sub-microscopic spheres stacked in a grid-like pattern -- like layers of Ping Pong balls in a box. This structure breaks up light into spectral colours.”


round and oval white opal cabochons showing range of shape and play of colour on white background


"Crazing"


white oval opal showing cracks, fractures and crazing showing a play of colour

Loss of moisture can lead to cracking, also known as “crazing” and is caused by heat, sudden change in temperature or excessive dryness. Keep opals away from direct flames and other heat sources. If you are not planning to wear your opal for a while, you can place it in a container along with a damp cloth, but don’t forget to check up on it once in a while. There is no need to store your opal jewellery in water, just give it an occasional rinse with soapy water to keep it clean.



Organic and porous gemstones like pearls and opals should never be exposed to the harsh chemicals like ammonia-based cleaners. With a hardness of 5-6.5 on the Moh’s scale, care should be taken while wearing opal jewellery, so no household chores or gardening here! In general, I do recommend being gentle with your jewellery, no matter what gemstone you are wearing.


If you would like to know more about cleaning and caring for your jewellery, visit my Blog Post on “10 easy tips to keep your jewellery Clean and Damage-Free”.



Did you know that there are three types of opal?


Here they are at a glance.


White opal

oval white opal cabochon showing play of colour on a rock background

White or light grey body colour showing a play-of-colour. These opals show a range of flashes ranging from pink to blue-green. The opal I chose for this project falls into this category. It is typically translucent or semi-translucent, meaning we can see some light shining through it. It is generally available in a variety or sizes of round or oval shape.





Black opal

oval black opal showing a play of colour on dark black background

Dark body colour with a play-of-colour.

Typically opaque, we are not able to be seen through it.

Black opal is rare and fairly hard to find.







Fire opal

oval faceted fire opal orange Mexican opal on a white background

Yellow, orange or brown body colour.

Does not show play-of-colour and is typically translucent. Also know as “Mexican” opal, it can be faceted or a cabochon.







Lo and behold, the Opal Ring


transparent translucent round white opal showing play of colour in tweezers next to dry grapefruit prop on gold background by Tsarina Gems

Once I decided to pursue a new project, I needed to find the perfect gemstone, no two opals are exactly alike. As I looked through my options, this particular round opal cabochon caught my attention, a lovely combination of blue and green with just a touch of pink. I decided that such delicate colour will look wonderful in white gold.




transparent translucent round white opal showing play of colour on gold background hand holding white gold diamond semi mount ring pink nails by Tsarina Gems



Do you agree that such a dreamy gemstone deserves an elegant setting with just a touch of sparkle?


This vintage inspired cushion halo consists of twenty perfectly matched, round brilliant cut natural diamonds, 0.20ct in weight.





transparent translucent round white opal showing play of colour on hand wearing white gold diamond semi mount on gold background by Tsarina Gems


In terms of size, this enchanting opal is 5.5mm in diameter and weighs 0.34ct. Did you know that gemstones are often described by their diameter size rather than their carat weight?


You can read more about gemstone carat weight vs. diameter in my previous blog post, titled

“Fancy a Sapphire?”




I could not be happier with the result and I am delighted to announce that this exquisite Opal Ring is available for purchase!


round white opal set in white gold ring with vintage inspired cushion halo with natural diamonds on white and lace background by Tsarina Gems


Is an opal ring on your wish list this holiday season?


Please contact Tsarina Gems for further details.


Have you ever seen an opal under magnification?

No wonder it is sometimes compared to galaxies and fireworks. Take a look!


close up magnification of round white opal held in tweezers set in white gold ring with vintage inspired cushion halo with natural diamonds on white background by Tsarina Gems

A gem like no other

There is no other gemstone which replicates the curious play-of-colour as seen in opal. When shopping for opal, be aware of the following imitations and synthetic stones.


  • Synthetic opal - essentially the same chemical, physical and optical properties as a natural stone BUT synthetic opal is a man-made material, created in a lab. It can be detected by a trained gemologist.

  • Doublet and Triplets - These consist of a thin slice of opal which is “glued” to another material to make it look thicker. Two or three separate layers can be detected by a professional but can be difficult to spot when set into jewellery.

  • Glass and plastic imitations.


To put your mind at ease, our stunning Opal Ring comes with a complementary, third party appraisal.


Visit our Gallery for more inspiration.

Check out our Instagram page for holiday gift ideas!