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Derives its name from the Roman word opalus, a Latinised version of the older Sanskrit upala, meaning ‘precious stone’.
The weird and the wonderful
An amorphous structure (without shape), opals are formed in undisturbed cavities within rocks, where silica spheres slowly settle and arrange themselves in an orderly three-dimensional form. Unless all the factors in its formation are perfect, there is no colour play, which is caused by the diffraction of light through the spheres. The larger the spheres the greater the range in colour.
As a result of its amorphous structure, fossil bones and seashells have been unearthed in Australia, replaced by opal, and it is commonly found as fossilised wood, preserving the woods external appearance and cellular structure.
A hardened silica gel, it usually contains 5 to 10 per cent water in sub microscopic pores, as a result it may crack if it dries out. To combat this, it can sometimes be set between quartz in order to strengthen it.
History in a nutshell
Considered to provide great luck during the Middle Ages, it was believed to possess all the virtues of each of the gemstones whose colours were represented.
Until the late 19th century Slovakia was the primary source, but this changed after large deposits were found in Australia in 1887, including the rare and prized black opal.
Normally cut en cabochon to realise the brilliant colour play, Opal is often considered the birthstone for October.
Known as a very spiritual stone, opal can help one be 'invisible' in situations where they don't care to be noticed, and it has been said to bring happy dreams, and ease the process of change.
Due to all of the colours contained in this stone, it may be used to work on any and all of the chakras.
Where in the world
- South Africa
- United States
5.5 - 6.5 What on earth is this?