October’s birthstone – Opal
Opal, with its kaleidoscope of colours and unique properties, is the birthstone for those born in October. This gemstone has been well loved for centuries, not just for its beauty but also for its mystical significance. Let’s explore the October birthstone – here, we will cover the multifaceted world of Opals, including what Opal is, the meaning behind it as a birthstone, its characteristics, where it can be found, its historical significance, and the best Opal birthstone gift ideas.
What is opal?
Opal is a beautiful, shimmering gemstone that comes in many colours. It formed millions of years ago in arid desert areas. During the rainy season, heavy rains would soak the sun-baked ground, the rainwater carrying a dissolved mineral, called silica, into cracks inside rocks. When the water dried, the silica deposits were left, and these layers formed opal.
Opal is a gemstone known for its play of colours – no two Opals will look the same. An Opal is typically a milky white stone, that has iridescent colours within it, such as blues, greens and pinks. This play of colour is because inside the stone consists of tiny spheres of silica that diffract light, creating an interesting display of colours. Opals can be transparent, translucent, or opaque, and their colour patterns are often compared to galaxies or underwater scenes.
What is the meaning of an Opal birthstone?
Opals have been associated with a myriad of meanings and symbolism throughout history. In ancient times, Opals were believed to possess mystical powers and were associated with foresight and prophecy. They were considered to bring good luck and protect against evil. Opals are also believed to symbolise hope, purity, and innocence. As a birthstone, Opal is said to enhance the positive characteristics of individuals born in October, such as loyalty and love. This makes Opal jewellery an extra special gift for an October baby.
What are the characteristics of Opal?
Opals are renowned for their unique characteristics, including their vibrant play-of-colour and wide colour spectrum. They are relatively soft gemstones, ranking around 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This makes opals more delicate than other gemstones like diamonds and sapphires. This means Opals require special care to prevent damage, and aren’t suitable for jewellery worn every day, such as engagement rings.
Where are Opals found?
- Opals are found in various parts of the world, but some of the most well-known opal-producing regions include Australia, Ethiopia, Mexico, and Brazil.
- Australia is famous for its Opal deposits, with the town of Coober Pedy being a well-known hub for Opal mining.
- Each region produces Opals with distinct characteristics and colour patterns, making Opal jewellery even more diverse and appealing, and even traceable to the region it came from.
In this short video, you’ll see how an opal creates a rainbow shimmer:
The history of Opals
- Ancient civilizations, such as the Romans and Greeks, treasured Opals for their perceived mystical powers and believed they could bring good fortune.
- In the Middle Ages, Opals were associated with loyalty and fidelity, making them popular choices for engagement rings (though in modern times we don’t recommend this!)
- In some parts of the world, Opals also faced superstitions and negative myths, often fuelled by their delicate nature. However nowadays they are revered for their beauty.
Opals come in many colours
Each opal reflects light differently. No two opals are exactly the same:
White opal is the most popular type of opal used in jewellery. This is due to its pearly white colour that is easy to wear. It can be translucent or opaque and shows stunning, multi-coloured specs of light.
Fire opal comes in translucent orange, yellow or red hues. It is sometimes called Mexican opal.
Black opal is the rarest type of opal. Its background is very dark and because of this, its play of colour really stands out. However, its price can be prohibitive and its dark colour is hard to wear. That’s why it is usually reserved for big, expensive statement jewellery pieces.
The meaning of the name ‘Opal’
There are differing opinions about the origin of the name Opal. One of the theories is that it comes from the Roman word opalus, which evolved from the Greek opallios, meaning ‘changing colour’. The word may also have come from the ancient Sanskrit word upala, which means ‘precious stone’.
Fun facts about Opals
Arabic mythology claims that opals fell from the skies during lightning storms. The early Greeks believed that opals could protect their owners from illness. In ancient Rome, there was a curious belief that opals could help blonde women retain their coveted hair colour.
Best Opal birthstone gifts
If you’re looking to celebrate an October birthday or any special occasion, consider gifting Opal jewellery. For example, a beautiful Opal ring, a pair of subtle Opal stud earrings or a vintage style Opal locket necklace all make for a wonderful, meaningful present for the October birthday (or even just the Opal lover!) in your life.
Beautiful, luxurious opal jewellery