Symbolism and Meanings
Opals are said to increase confidence and clear the mind.
October’s birthstone, the opal, is a multi-colored mineraloid. The national gemstone of Australia, the opal diffracts light, causing it to change color when looked at from different angles. While most of the world’s opals come from Australia, opals are also mined in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, and North America, as well as many other locations.
Gregorian Birthstone Poem
There is a Gregorian calendar birthstone poem for each month in the year. The October verse is shown below:
October’s child is born for woe,
And life’s vicissitudes must know,
But lay an opal on her breast,
And hope will lull those woes to rest.
—Gregorian Birthstone Poems
Opals have been associated with both good and bad fortune throughout history. The aborigines of Australia believed that the many hues of the opal came into being when the creator traveled to Earth on a rainbow. Opals were created at the location where the creator’s foot touched the Earth.
Medieval Europeans thought opals brought good luck, and that the many colors contained the power of all the other gemstones. The opal was said to alleviate emotional distress and would ease the depression to which those born in the month of October were believe to be susceptible.
The reputation of the opal was sullied by Sir Walter Scott’s 1829 novel Anne of Geierstein. A character in this book dies after her magical opal is turned colorless by a drop of holy water. This popular novel damaged the sale of opal as people began associating the gem with death and misfortune. It took nearly twenty years for the opal to begin to regain its popularity. Opal is now thought to ensure fidelity, increase confidence, and sharpen the mind.
Today, the opal is the most common traditional birthstone for the month of October. White opal is associated with the astrological sign of Libra, while black opal is associated with Scorpio.
As opal is found in many locations all over the world, it comes in various types, all with their own unique qualities. Opal is formed when groundwater makes its way through layers of silica. Traces of the minerals found in each region settle into opal deposits, creating diverse characteristics in the world’s opals.
The common opal comes in several varieties that include honey, prase, and seascape. The honey has an amber color and does not display the interplay of color common to most other types of opal. The prase opal contains nickel which gives it a green hue. The seascape opal is blue-green in color and somewhat translucent.
Precious opal comes in white, black, semiblack, or jelly opal. The white opal contains a light color as its foundation, while still displaying its rainbow of hues. The most prominent colors in the white opal will often be blue and green with flashes of red, yellow, or orange. Black opals have a dark color as their foundation. These opals are more rare and expensive. Jelly opals contain more of a blue-grey foundation, and are even more difficult to find.
Other popular types of opal include the fire opal, which derives its name from the prevalence of red, orange, and yellow in the stone, and Andean opal which is opaque with a turquoise color. The opal is a diverse gemstone, providing color combinations that can suit almost anyone’s individual taste.
The dictionary.com definition of Opal is:
Origin of the Word Opal
Opal comes from French ‘opale’ which has likely roots in Latin ‘opalus’. It is believed that this probably originates from Sanskrit ‘upala’, meaning ‘precious stone’.
Opal is a Hydrated silica mineraloid with formula SiO2·nH2O. It has an amorphous crystal system showing irregular veins, masses and nodules. It has a subvitreous to waxy luster. It has a hardness of 5.5 – 6 on Moh scale. When light passes through it, opaque, translucent and semi transparent properties are seen.
Natural or Synthetic?
Opal is one of the gemstones that can be sythesized through artificial means. They are created by a chemical reaction that bonds silica spheres into a stable form. The resulting opals are more uniform in design than their natural counterparts. The process of creating the opals in this manner was discovered by Pierre Gilson in 1974. Synthetic opals are often more porous, making them more susceptible to damage. Imitation opals are also created, imitating the look of opals, but adding different ingredients, such as plastics, that would not be found in natural opal.