The opal's iridescent luster has fascinated since ancient times. Swirling shades of the rainbow can all appear in one stone, like a kaleidoscope display. The word opal has origins in the Latin word "opalus", meaning stone of several elements, and in the Greek word "opallios", which translates as color change.
There are many myths associated with the opal. In ancient Arabic times, it was believed that opals fell from heaven in flashes of lightning. Ancient Greeks thought opals had the power to aid prophecy and foresight. The Aborigines in Australia believed that the Creator came down to Earth and where he stood turned into a field of sparkling opals. In the middle ages, blond-haired women wore opals to prevent their hair from losing its color. The opal's unique beauty has enchanted many rulers as well, including Cleopatra and Napoleon. Queen Victoria made opal jewelry popular in her day and gave opals as wedding presents as a symbol of hope, happiness and truth.
Throughout the course of history, opal gemstones have been prized for their ever-changing color display and are still highly sought after today.
OPAL: With an iridescent luster that can reveal a beautiful kaleidoscope of color, the opal has inspired many myths and legends. A white opal with swirls of soft pastel shades is popular for jewelry, but opals also come in black and blue. Opal is the gemstone for October birthdays. More about colored gemstones.
Opals occur in fissures or cavities of any rock type and are mined at shallow depths. More than 90% of the world's opals come from Australia and the country has distinguished the stone as its national gem. Opals can also be found in other parts of the world such as Brazil, Mexico, Czechoslovakia and the United States.
Opals are made up of a small percentage of water, usually between three and ten percent, so extreme weather conditions should be avoided. Wear your opal jewelry often to expose it to moisture and humidity. Since the opal is one of the softer gemstones (5.5-6 on the Mohs scale), protect your opal jewelry from sharp blows and scratches. Store your opal jewelry alone in box when not in use. Clean your opal necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings with room temperature water and a soft cloth.