Opal & Its Mysteries
2nd October 2019
Let’s start October by discovering its fascinating birthstone.
In Greek, Opallios means «to see a change of colour», while in Roman, Opalus means «precious stone». Both meanings are well describing this kaleidoscopic stone, popular for its flashes of lights and bright colors.
It is a gemstone full of meanings: supposedly representing faith and passion it's also boosting self-confidence and has healing power. It is most frequently considered as a lucky stone, bringing hope and good fortune to the wearer. If you’re celebrating your 14th wedding anniversary, then this is the stone you need to offer to your beloved one.
Verde Bisazza Cuff Sunlight Escape Watch, Piaget.
Black Opals, Emeralds, Diamonds & White Gold
Panthère de Cartier Necklace.
L'Odyssée de Cartier Necklace.
Impressive Matrix Opal.
Largely exploited since the end of the XIXth century, Australia mines are leading in opal extraction, reaching 95% of the production worldwide. Ethiopia, Mexico and Brazil are other important sources. In case you get the chance to go on March, you might also find some, as it is one of the only gemstones found outside of our planet.
The Opal is ranked at 5.5-6 on Mohs Scale, which makes it a pretty soft stone, and is composed of water and silica (the main component of glass). It usually contains 5-10% water but, depending on its origin, the stone can absorb more water.
Most of opals create an opalescence effect, which looks like a milky luster or iridescence. However, only a few rare specimens, called "precious opals", also present the “play-of-color” effect.
This latter is a brilliant flash of colors that is produced by the light diffracted into the rainbow spectrum. This is due to millions of tiny silica spheres of different sizes that refract light. The colors display depends on the size of the spheres. If the spheres are small, only blue and turquoise colors can be seen. On the contrary, if the spheres are big, the opal can reach this red and orange variations which are much rarer. The opals having red tones can display all colors of the spectrum.
The opals are the only gemstones being able to diffract the light in this way which makes them very special stones.
Spheres composing the opal and reflecting the light in colors.
There are various types of opals, but the most popular are the following:
-White opals have a light neutral background, they often have pale colors with an average intensity.
-Fire opals are very distinctive as they are transparent to translucent stones. They are called this way for their strong red, orange or yellow color. They usually don’t have any play of lights, they are just bright.
-Black opals are opaque and have a dark background, which allow the stone to have very colorful flashes and to have a wider variety of shades. They are the ones that give this deep blue, green and turquoise hues, but also burning red and orange.
-Boulder opals are rough stones displaying a precious opal on its mother rock. In this case, the colors and light effects only appear on one side which contrast with the dark and mat host stone.
-Matrix opals are part of the boulder types since the precious opal is integrated in the host stone. As the colors and lights are belonging to the whole rock. it usually looks like colorful veins going through the dark main component.
Different Types of Opals. Legends on pictures.
Many opals present natural inclusions that are due to insects, air, vegetation or potch. Inclusions generally lower the value of the stone, however, impressive aesthetics can be created as well, which would enhance its unicity, rarity and beauty. An opal value is based on many criteria such as: play-of-colors, brilliance, size, patterns, inclusions, origin, brightness, body tone, shape.
Opals' Inclusions. Legends on pictures.
Several jewellery brands were recently inspired to dedicate a collection to the colorful opal.
In 2014, Louis Vuitton unveiled Acte V Genesis which presented many important opals as center stones. In 2017, Dior launched Dior & d’Opales, which gathered lots of secret watches, working on all colors’ variations of the stone. In 2018, Chopard reveiled the below statement piece, a secret watch featuring an oceanic opal. In 2019, Chaumet created several sets translating the starry nights with opals in Les Ciels de Chaumet collection. The same year, David Morris dedicated a collection to opals associated with Paraiba tourmalines et blue sapphires. Cartier also unveiled this year an extraordinary set with matrix opals in the Magnitude collection.