Opal is a gemstone that is famous for its internal glowing color, which takes on myriad hues and shades, rather like smoldering flames in a block of ice. It crystallizes in the form of masses and is not a very hard stone (only 5.5 – 6 on the Mohs scale), but is still used as jewelry due to its striking color variations, of which there are many. Its color is caused by its unique internal composition and structure – it is a hydrated form of silica (SiO2·nH2O) essentially making it a “watery stone”, and light is diffracted through it.
Two basic kinds of opal exist in general – Precious and common opal. The former is more transparent/translucent and exists in numerous colored varieties, while the latter is much more opaque and has no “fire” inside. There are innumerable tiny silicon dioxide “spheres” inside precious opal, which can be seen with a high powered microscope; these tiny spheres act to diffract light passing through them into its own spectrum, thus giving opal its unique coloration. For common opal, its spheres are not of uniform size, and not orderly structured.
Just to give you an idea, among the many types of opal known are:
- Black opal
- Blue opal
- Boulder opal
- Cherry opal
- Common opal
- Dendritic opal
- Fire opal
- Golden opal
- Green opal
- Pink opal
- Red opal
Sometimes, opal is found in fossilized specimens of ancient life forms, especially in petrified wood and ammonite shells. Such is the beauty of its unique “fire”, that synthetic opal now exists, which mimics the light diffraction of natural opal, but ultimately lacks the way the light is diffracted irregularly in the natural forms, and are much less durable. As a gemstone, opal is usually cut and polished into a cabochon shape and then mounted into pendants, necklaces, rings, earrings, or bracelets. If a single opal is used as a component of the jewelry piece, it is called a “solid” opal piece, but if the opal piece is too thin, it is combined with another material to form an opal “doublet”.
Opal has been mined and exported mainly from Australia, so much so that it was declared its national gemstone (the town of Coober Pedy in the state of South Australia is a major source), but other places with significant deposits include Mexico, Ethiopia, Nevada in the United States, Canada, Brazil, and some European countries like Hungary, Slovakia, and Czech Republic.
Although there are many varieties of opal, the properties common to all forms of opal are discussed here. Opal is known amplify one’s attributes, including the bad traits, thus allowing one to recognize and overcome those undesired characteristics. The “fire” inside of opal encourages creativity, and intuition, including making one more spontaneous, while casting away the inhibitions that hold one back. Some people think opal is an unlucky stone, owing to the story, “Anne of Geierstein” by Walter Scott, an English poet, in the 19th century. This myth is perpetuated because opal is quite fragile, and breaks rather easily. Being quite soft, it needs to be kept apart from other stones or over time, it will end up scratched or chipped.
Opal encourages fidelity between people, and is a stone of happiness, increasing one’s awareness of one’s own positive attributes and potential to achieve even greater things. As to awakening and enhancing one’s psychic abilities, opal is also fully able and ready to do just that. It increases intuition and helps you to recognize and understand it. It should be noted that both the aborigines in the Outback of Australia and Native American Indians use opal to obtain psychic visions.
Opal is used for treating infections, and is good for most physical disorders of an internal nature. It helps to purify the blood and assist in detoxification. Some people use opal in the treatment of disorders of the eyes/vision, and to ease the process of childbirth. It is also used to treat disorders of the lungs.
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