Stone Of The Month - October - Opal
Updated: Nov 4
The somewhat scary month of October brings us to the not so scary Opal.
The opal is a stone that provides a complexity of colour play, and one stone can look completely different depending on the light that catches it. The two main types of opals that exhibit this colour play are white and black opals. White opals have a milky, pale white body, with flashes of colour throughout. The black opal can have a grey, black or blue body, with striking flashes of bright colours. There is also another variety of opal, named the fire opal, which is arguably the most beautiful form, consiting of a transparent bright orange body with big flashes of colour. The overall consistent theme here for opals, is that regardless of the variety, they all feature beautifully unique patterns of vibrant colour flashes.
These flashes of colour that opals possess contain the colours of red, orange, green and blue. This is caused by light hitting the stone, where it then breaks up between the tiny spheres of silica within the opal, from which the opal is originally made. It is actually rather humorous that we humans have placed a such a high desirability and value on something that can be somewhat compared to natures excrement. Opals are formed when water runs through sandstone, picking up tiny molecules of silica. This created a solution which would then flow through cracks and voids in sedimentary, forming the opal we know today.
Opals are incredibly brittle and require a huge amount of protecting to ensure that they don't become damaged. Heat, moisture and cosmetics can be devastating to an opal; even the display lights in s hop window can give off enough heat that it can cause opals to dry out and crack. This obviously means opals are increibly difficult to work within jewellery, as they can be easily damaged during the setting. Luckily, techniques have been practiced on and perfected to ensure that opals can be used within jewellery, which has allowed us to lay witness to some of the most ethereally beautiful pieces. Many opals used in modern jewellery are actually composite stones, due to the difficulty of opal setting and come in different types. One of these types is called a doublet, where thin pieces of opal are mounted onto a piece of common opal or onyx. The ther is called a triplet, which is a doublet but with an added protective layer of rock crystal fixed over the opal. These composite opals are not worth nearly as much as natural opals, but is the tradeoff required to ensure your opal jewellery doesn't break easily. To an untrained eye, they will look as flashy and elegant as a natural opal and would only really be obvious when it was side by side with a natural opal. Unless you are prepared to undergo a great deal of care and protection over your opal jewellery, there is absolutely nothing wrong with going for a doublet or triplet, saving you money and worry over causing damage, whilst still being able to wear one of nature's most beautiful creations.