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Opals

17 / Aug / 2021

Opals

Find out more about opals

Opal

 

Opals form over millions of years from voids filled with silica rich water that has dehydrated and left spheres of of silica in its place.

 

In Australia, opals date back to when the land was covered in ocean. Once the water receded, silica filled cavities in the sedimentary rock, hence why opal usually contains 5 to 10 percent water in submicroscopic pores.

 

Fine opal consists of a regular arrangement of transparent silica spheres. The formation and stacking of these spheres is what causes one of nature’s greatest phenomenon, ‘play of color’; the refraction of light around the silica.

Think back to your science class shining light thru a prism. This splitting of light into its colors is the same principle here. As light bends around the silica beads, light splits out at different colors depending on the size of the bead. Nature is not perfect so each bead is slightly different in size leading to a rainbow of colors to be refracted out.

 

The most common form of opal is known as white with the rarest being black opal. Black opal is derived from a natural solid opal which when viewed from the top has a play of color against a black, dark gray or dark body colored background.

 

Play of color is highly important in judging an opal. The color of the ‘fire’, its brightness and the pattern which it forms over the opal surface all help to categorize fine opal. Vivid red flashes of color are considered the most valuable followed by orange, green and blue. The brightness depicts the strength and intensity of the color. The brighter and crisper the fire the rarer and more valuable the opal. The pattern of the play of color; flashfire, pinfire or harlequin are also an identifier of its rarity and hence its value.

 

Caring for Opals:

 

Opals are commonly thought to be bad luck and hard to look after. This misconception is explain why below.

Simple measures are required to be taken to care for your opal.

Opals are made of 5-10% water. Using solutions that may cause the opals to dry out such as detergents, laundry soaps of any ammonia based product should not be used on opals. Drying out the opal causes crazing, fine hair line fractures in the stone. Simple measures such as not washing up, bathing, swimming, steaming with the opal can reduce the risk of crazing.

Exposure to extreme heat will also dry out the opal resulting in a loss of iridescence and life to the stone.

Opals, such as with pearls, are enhanced when worn. The natural oils in the skin help to keep the opal moist which in turn maintains luster, play of color and the beauty of the opal.

It is commonly thought Opal is a soft stone. In actual fact, opal shares the same hardness as that of turquoise, lapis lazuli, tanzanite and moonstone.

Love and enjoy your opal and it will love and enjoy you back.

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