One of the most distinctive gemstones is the opal. Most opals are a milky white colour, with flecks of green or blue through them.
We have prized opals for centuries, but many people feel that opals are unlucky.
Maybe if they took some time to learn a bit more about these amazing gems, opals would be far more popular than they are.
The overwhelming majority of the world’s opals are found in Australia, and it wasn’t until trade became established with Australia in the 19th century that opals were imported to the UK.
The first opals were something we had never seen before, and the exotic nature of the gemstones meant they became instantly popular with Victorian society.
Opals are also found in parts of Europe and Central America, but as 97% of the world’s production comes from down under, if you have an opal ring or an opal pair of earrings, the stones have probably come half way around the world.
Most opals are milky white in colour, but there are also opals which are black, purple, green, yellow, brown or grey.
This variety of different colours means that some very striking pieces of jewellery can be made from opals, and the stones are often used in combination with other stones to make unusual items.
Pearls are often used with opals as the basic colour is similar, and in Victorian times opals were often used with jet for a black and white classic combination.
Many people in the UK associate opals with bad luck, and this is all down to a novel written by Sir Walter Scott.
In the book Anne of Geierstein, the lead character wears an opal necklace and it eventually causes her death.
The novel was published in 1829, and sales of opals plummeted in the years following its release.
Even almost a century later the superstitions persist, and in Russia many people associate opals with the Evil Eye, and refuse to wear any jewellery made from opal.
You won’t be surprised to hear that the world’s largest opal was mined in South Australia and weighs in at over 2 kilos.
Gemstones are generally measured by carats, and the average diamond solitaire ring usually contains around a third of a carat.
This monster opal is 11,340 carats and is far too big to be mounted in a ring or on a necklace.
Opal is the birthstone for October, and it is a good starting point when you are looking for a present for someone who has a birthday in that month.
Opals are in more plentiful supply than other precious stones like rubies or emeralds, and this makes them a more affordable choice too.
Lots of talented jewellery makers are creating unique and individual pieces using opals,
so be sure to check out ranges from designers such as Martine Wester rings or websites such as Folksy or Etsy to see what up and coming designers are creating.
For a truly individual gift, contact a local silversmith or jewellery studio and ask them about having something made to your own design.
- Photograph by opals-on-black.com Via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
License: Creative Commons
Guest article by blogger Morag Peers. You can find her other authored articles by checking out Google +.