For centuries, poets and writers have compared opals to molten lava and sunsets. A precious gem with bands or swirls of colors that changes color depending on the light or position, opals are both beautiful and mysterious. Thanks to their luminous quality, some people believe opals have magical and spiritual qualities.
The word opal comes from the Latin word “opalus”, which means precious stone, and the Greek word “opallios”, which translates to changes in color. And the opal is both. Ancient societies and European royalty believed the gem would bring them luck, prosperity and safety from disease. In another observation, early Arab cultures believed the opal looked like flashes of lightening and said the stone fell from the sky.
Just like autumn’s changing leaves, opals’ ability to shift colors creates a mesmerizing effect. It is fitting that the opal is October’s official birthstone. In fact, some superstitious believe it was unlucky for anyone not born in October to wear an opal. (That idea comes from a book written in the 1800s by Sir Walter Scott.)
Luckily, opals are generally more affordable than other precious gems, making them widely available to any admirer. That means your budget can buy stunning opals that can be fashioned into rings, pendants, and earrings, and put the gorgeous colors to be on display. Opals are beautiful in jewelry on their own, or paired in a setting with pearls and diamonds.
While many precious gems are formed by metamorphism, opals are actually created by rain falling into cracks in rocks. Once the water evaporates, the silica hardens and becomes the opal stone. Australia produces 95% of the world’s opals, with the remaining stones coming from the U.S., Honduras, Brazil and Mexico.
Recently, opals were discovered on the surface of Mars, making them just one of a handful of gems found on the red planet.
History tells that opals would bring luck, prosperity, and safety to those who wear the gemstone. In European societies, opals were rare and valuable, and valued for their mythical qualities. Perhaps that why opals were a favorite of legendary Queen Victoria of England, who identified opal as her favorite stone and featured opals in many of her rings, necklaces and brooches.
Opals are soft and delicate stones, and should be handled with care. On the Mohs hardness scale, opals rank at a 5.5 and 6.5 out of 10. In comparison, diamonds, which are the hardest stones, have a score of 10. Due to their softness, opals can scratch and crack easily, and they are also sensitive to extreme temperatures. As a result, opals are more suitable for occasional wear, rather than everyday use. To protect an opal, consider wearing it in a necklace or earrings, rather than a ring, which gets more wear and tear.
To keep your opal safe and looking its best, take extra care when cleaning and storing your items. Clean your opal with a soft, dry cloth, or a bit of mild detergent on a damp, soft brush. Be sure to avoid any harsh cleaners, or excessive water or cleansers. Like pearls, opals should never be soaked or submerged in water.
If your opal loses its luster, you can bring it to Peter Franklin to be polished. When you’re not wearing your opals, be sure to store them in an individual padded box or soft pouch.
Opals make a sentimental and stunning gift. For a memorable gift for a special person with an October birthday, Peter Franklin carries a wide variety of opal jewelry, including rings, earrings, pendants and brooches. If you have a vision for a one-of-a-kind piece, our expert designers can help you create and craft custom jewelry. Visit our three Northeast Indiana locations in New Haven, Angola and Fort Wayne, and let our customer experience professionals help you select the finest opal October birthstone jewelry.