OPAL – AUSTRALIA’S NATIONAL GEMSTONE
- Australia produces 95% of the world’s precious opal.
- With the increasing scarcity of gem-quality opals, it may soon become the most sought-after and precious of all gems.
- The value of solid opals has been increasing for many years.
- It takes salt, water, sand and time (approximately 50 million years) to form opal. In 1963, scientists discovered that opal is comprised of minute spherical particles of silica. Light passes through these transparent spheres and is scattered. Diffraction splits the white light up into colours of the spectrum and throws it out at different angles. Larger spheres produce red light, smaller spheres produce green to violet. In good quality opal, the spheres are packed together in a remarkably regular pattern. This results in fiery flashes and bands of colour, seemingly floating in a three-dimensional void.
- In them you see the living fire of ruby, the glorious purple of amethyst and the sea-green of the emerald, all glittering together in an incredible mixture of light.
- Opals are 60% as strong as diamond and twice as strong as your teeth.
TYPES OF OPAL
- BLACK OPAL: is the most rare and valuable of all opals. Its darkness comes from the natural dark base, which reflects the colours in the stone. This increases the intensity and brilliance of the colours.
- BOULDER OPAL: is formed in ironstone boulder (rock) which provides a natural brown backing to the solid opal. Boulder opal can almost match the intensity and brilliance of black opal.
- CRYSTAL OPAL: has little or no background colour, and has brilliant, fiery opal colours on both its surfaces and recesses. It is highly sought after by connoisseurs of precious gems for its translucent shimmering beauty.
- WHITE OPAL: has a background colour varying from white to pale grey, with the opal colours displayed throughout. The colours range from milky sparks to fiery flashes.
- INLAY OPAL: the casting of the metal (gold, silver etc) is created and a hole is left which is then painted black. A solid CRYSTAL OPAL is glued into the hole and made level with the setting.
- DOUBLET OPAL: is a layer of light precious opal bonded to a black or ironstone backing, simulating black or boulder opal.
- TRIPLET OPAL: is a thin veneer of precious opal bonded to a black backing with a protective crystal dome glued to the top.
CHOOSING YOUR OPAL
- Select a colour that appeals to you. An opal can be any colour, or all the colours of the spectrum. Its value is judged on the range of colours, the clarity and the colour composition. The more colourful the opal the more valuable it will be.
- Colour patterns – known as “play of colour” – range from large splashes of colour (rolling flashes) to small dots (pin-fire). No two are identical – for this reason the proud owner can delight in the fact their gem is unique.
- Some people say you don’t choose the opal – the opal chooses you.
- Opals love to be worn, some say they even react to the state of your health.
- Claimed healing properties opals possess: treats infections & fevers, purifies blood & kidneys, regulated insulin, eases childbirth & PMS. It is also claimed that opals can strengthen the memory.
CARING FOR YOUR OPAL
- You should only use clean water for solid stones.
- Detergents and shampoos should be avoided.
- Chemical jewellery cleaner or oil should not be used.
- Inlay, Doublet and Triplet opals should not be dipped in water.
- Silver or gold polishing cloths are suitable.