Opals: The Precious Stone | Mountain Song Jewelers | Greeneville, TN
Opals have always been a mesmerizing gemstone and known for their unique display of bursting colors. But did you know that there are two broad classes of opals? Precious and common. The precious opal displays a vibrant array of play-of-color but the common opal does not. A common opal is usually opaque to translucent but can really come in any color.
As you can see above, the precious opal is displaying a play-of-color. This occurs in this specific stone because it is made up of sub-microscopic spheres stacked in a grid-like pattern, similar to layers of Ping-Pong balls in a box. When the lightwaves move between the spheres in a precious opal, the waves start to diffract or bend. As they do this, they break up into the colors of the rainbow, called spectral colors. This is how you get the play-of-color and how the precious opal so brilliantly displays an array of color.
How Opals Are Made
To me, the most impressive attribute of the opal is how it is formed. We all know that Australia is an interesting place that is both quite beautiful but also terrifying. I mean, they have lizards the size of small children, bats that are bigger than a Labrador Retriever, the huntsman spider that is larger than a frisbee (no spider should be that big), and kangaroos that may or may not challenge you in a duel for your dog. However, with all the crazy terrifying stuff, they are where opals form. And yes, you read that right, I said form.
Opals are a product of the seasonal rains that drench the dry ground regions in Australia’s semi-desert “outback.” So, in the land of the “nope” during the rainy season, the showers of water soak deep into the ancient underground rock. This rain carries a dissolved silica, a compound of silicon and oxygen, downward. Then when all the rain starts to evaporate during the dry periods, it leaves behind the solid deposits of silica in the cracks and between the layers of the underground sedimentary rock. This causes the silica deposits to form opals.
History and Lore
The Roman scholar, Pliny, said, “Some opals carry such a play within them that they equal the deepest and richest colors of painters. Others simulate the flaming fire of burning sulphur and even the bright blaze of burning oil.” He was entranced that his kaleidoscopic gem embraced the red of a ruby, the green of an emerald, the yellow of a topaz, the blue of a sapphire, and the purple of the amethyst.
Pliny wasn’t the only one who marveled at of an opal. It was very common amongst the Romans to believe that the opal, beaming with all the colors of all the gemstones, was the most precious and powerful stone of all. However, the Bedouins believed that opals contained lightning and fell from the sky during thunderstorms (cool concept but have you seen the size of the rock that opals are discovered on?)
There have been many cultures that have believed the opal has supernatural origins and powers. Some Arabic legends say it falls from the heavens in flashes of lightning. Greeks believed opals gave their owners the gift of prophecy and guarded them from disease. Europeans have long considered the gem a symbol of hope, purity, and truth.
The opal has gone by many names, Pandora, Light of the World, and Empress. It has also been compared to volcanoes, galaxies, and fireworks. It has been a symbol for love and hope. This precious stone has been admired throughout history and, still to this day, mesmerizes us with its unique rays of flashing color. Visit us online or stop in the store to shop our collection of this precious stone.