The Ultimate Guide to Opal

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The opal stone is mostly known as the October birthstone but there’s so much more to it. If you wish to learn more about opal, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we discuss opal’s composition, value, uses, symbolism, care tips, and how to distinguish a real opal from a fake one.


What is opal?

Opal is one of the most popular gemstones worldwide. Mineralogically, opal is hydrous silica with a chemical composition of SiO2.nH2O. It’s amorphous, meaning it doesn’t have a crystalline structure and is without definite chemical composition. Due to its amorphous properties, opal is classified as a mineraloid and not a mineral. 

While different types of opal exist, it’s broadly classified into two types: precious opal and common opal or “potch.” Precious opal displays the characteristic play-of-color (flash of spectral colors) and is rarer than common opal. Common opal is dull and doesn’t exhibit play-of-color. 

The precious opal’s internal structure causes light diffraction, resulting in the play-of-color. The bright rainbow colors, seen by the human eye, will move and change depending on which angle you view the stone.

Some scholars believe that opal gets its name from the Sanskrit word “upala” which means “precious stone” while others say it’s from the Latin word “opalus,” which derives from the Ancient Greek “opallius,” which means “color changing.” 

In ancient times, people believed that opal possessed all the properties of gemstones whose colors flicker within it, and thus opal gained its reputation as the “Queen of Gems.”

Where is opal gemstone found?

Australia is the leading producer of opal in the world. Popular mining areas in Australia include Coober Pedy, Lightning Ridge, Yowah, Jundah, Koroit, and others. Ethiopia also produces a significant amount of this gemstone. 

Mexico is mainly known for producing fire opal in bright yellow, orange, and red colors. Other countries that have precious opal include Guatemala, Indonesia, Hungary, Brazil, Peru, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Nicaragua, and the United States. 

Is an opal a precious stone?

No, opal is not a precious stone. The only precious gemstones are diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Opal is a semi-precious gemstone.

opal ring - The Ultimate Guide to Opal

What is opal stone good for?

The opal stone has many physical, emotional, and spiritual uses.

Physical benefits:

  • Treating infections, reducing fever, and boosting the immune system
  • Helping the liver function well 
  • Easing constriction in those with respiratory illnesses 
  • Relieving pain associated with PMS and childbirth
  • Opal is a good elixir for treating the eyes and renewing skin cells.
  • Helps to relieve headaches and migraines
  • Strengthening the skin, hair, and nails

Emotional benefits:

  • Improving emotional balance and harmony
  • Increasing self-esteem and worth
  • Overcoming inhibitions
  • Opal helps you let go of old wounds and old patterns that no longer serve you.
  • Opal stone helps you work through emotional challenges so you can balance your feelings and reach your full potential.

Spiritual uses:

  • Intensifying feelings of passion and seduction
  • Strengthening the will to live
  • Giving the wearer foresight
  • Heightening intuition
  • Opening the path to cosmic consciousness

Pros and cons of opal stone

Like most gemstones, opal has advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of opal’s pros and cons.

Pros

  1. Opal will help you express your true self by bringing originality and increasing dynamism.
  2. Opal gemstone increases spontaneity, faithfulness, and loyalty in relationships. It also gets rid of fickle-mindedness.
  3. It is a protective stone that will help you avoid places of physical and emotional danger. 
  4. It heals through the earth’s energy field and increases the positive flow of the earth’s energy to your life.
  5. It helps release sexual tensions and imparts a feeling of being centered.

Cons

  1. Opal is a very soft stone that makes it challenging to work with.
  2. Opal gemstone eventually loses water over time, and this causes it to crack. 
  3. Opal stone may make you feel more thirsty than usual.
  4. The opal stone is not durable and thus cannot be a family heirloom.

What does opal stone symbolize?

The opal stone represents hope, purity, truth, and amplification of one’s powers. It’s usually gifted to mark the 14th wedding anniversary. In ancient times, the opal was a gemstone of fidelity and assurance, and people mostly wore it as an amulet to bring about loyalty and faithfulness. 

What does white opal symbolize?

White opal symbolizes calmness, clarity, and serenity. It soothes restless, racing thoughts of the mind. It also promotes living in the moment rather than focusing on the future or the past. It’s known as a protection stone as it absorbs negative energies and shields against the negativity of others. 

In addition, it provides a spiritual camouflage that allows you to navigate complex relationships and challenge situations without getting the energy of others stuck to you. 

White opals symbolize the “divine feminine,” making them the perfect gemstone for mothers. They provide emotional support for pregnant mothers by alleviating anxieties and fears about the process of bringing forth new life. White opals also promote compassion, generosity, kindness, love, and gentleness, which are the characteristics of motherhood. 

White opals also symbolize everlasting love, optimism, grace, and harmony. They provide support for those raising teens and tweens. 

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Opal stone colors worth knowing 

The opal stone comes in various hues. Each gemstone can showcase a single color, two or three separate tones, or all colors of the rainbow, depending on its impurities and creation method.

Fire opal

Fire opal is a variety of opal with a bright red, orange, or yellow background color. Its name comes from the fiery background color. It may or may not exhibit a play-of-color.

The fire opal symbolizes love and passion not only for others but for different elements of life, including hobbies and careers. It also represents the joy of the heart, good fortune, and success. Some believe keeping a fire opal in your business will attract more customers.

There’s a belief that the fire opal can treat lower back injuries and kidney ailments. In mental health, the fire opal can help boost confidence in shy people. It also helps to heal from bad relationships and encourages health and positivity in relationships.

Black opal

Black opal comes with a dark body color like black, gray, dark green, or dark blue. They often have the play-of-color. The dark color comes from the presence of carbon and iron oxide elements. Australian black opals are the most widely known and most valuable.

Because it’s rare and expensive, it’s often considered a romantic symbol of “the one.” The black opal means grace, endurance, and stability in the face of adversity. Also, it will support manifesting your dreams.

Pink opal

Common opal also exists in various shades of pink. Peru is the best-known source of pink opal. Pink opal has been nicknamed “peppermint candy stone” due to its resemblance to candies.

Pink opal is a gemstone of gentleness and love, bringing energies of kindness and gentle love to all types of relationships. Physically, it’s helpful with heart disease, eyesight, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and diseases of the lungs and spleen. 

The pink opal is also known as the stone of spiritual awakening because it emits powerful vibrational energies. It brings about self-healing at all levels and rejuvenates your emotional body and aura. 


How much is an opal stone worth?

An opal’s worth can range from $1 to $5000 per carat. This broad price range is due to factors such as type, origin, brilliance, color, patterns, scarcity, fire, and transparency. Here are the price ranges for different colors.

  • Orange-brown opals cost $100 to $400 per carat.
  • Green opals cost $250 to $800 per carat.
  • Gray opals cost $300 to $1000 per carat.
  • Blue opals (very rare) cost $1000 to $3000 per carat.
  • Red opals (rare) cost $1000 to $5000 per carat.

How can I tell if my opal is real

Besides genuine opal, synthetic opal exists, as well as man-made opals are known as doublets and triplets. Before buying an opal, it’s essential to understand what doublet and triplet mean so you know if your opal is genuine.

A doublet is made of two layers bound together with glue. The first layer is a black backing made from either hard plastic, black industrial glass, brown ironstone, vitrolite, or black potch. The second layer is a thin slice of opal (white or crystal opal). The opal is generally thicker than the opal found in a triplet.

A triplet is made of three layers. The first layer is a black backing, the second layer is a very thin slice of opal in the middle, and the third layer is clear glass and plastic capping or quartz in the shape of a dome. 

So how can you tell if your opal is real?

Observe the side of the opal

A genuine opal will not have distinctly visible layers. It may be a doublet or triplet if you notice flat layers on the side. A natural opal will have an uneven join.

Examine the bottom part of the opal

Check the back of the opal. If you notice a gray or black hard-ish coating, it’s probably a triplet, as they are often glued onto vitrolite backing or black plastic glass.

Look at the top of the opal

If the top of the opal looks glassy, it’s most probably a triplet. Triplets are capped with quartz or hard clear plastic, so the top of the opal reflects differently from that of the genuine opal. In addition, if you can see through the top of the opal from a side view, you are most likely looking at a triplet. 

Observe the tone of the opal

If the opal is transparent or has a white body tone, it’s most certainly a genuine stone. All doublets and triplets have a dark body tone because they have a black artificial backing. 

Look at the pattern

Sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish genuine opals from synthetic ones made in a laboratory. Laboratory-made opals display bright colors in large patches of color. Their pattern is often too perfect and ordered, unlike a genuine opal.

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Caring for opal stones and jewelry

Taking care of your opal stones and jewelry is essential to ensuring they last a long time. In this section, we’re sharing care tips.

How do you charge an opal stone?

While some believe it’s impossible to charge opals (or any gemstone), others believe you can charge your opal by leaving it under the moonlight (especially during a full moon). Additionally, you can use the traditional native American technique of rubbing it together in the palm of your hands. 

How to care for opal jewelry

Use these tips to care for your opal jewelry:

  1. Clean the jewelry with a mild detergent in warm water using a soft toothbrush or cloth. Avoid using chemicals and bleach.
  2. If you want to store it for longer periods, place the gemstone in cotton wool with a few drops of water, then put it in a sealed plastic bag. Opals have 6-10% water content and will dry out and crack if they are in dry storage.  
  3. Do not wear your opal jewelry if there is a chance that they may get hit with hard objects, like when playing sports or gardening.  
  4. Store your opal jewelry separately from other pieces to avoid scratches.
  5. Keep your opal jewelry away from heat sources like fireplaces. Extreme heat causes cracking.
  6. Avoid sudden temperature changes, for example, going from a warm house to the cold winter outside.

FAQS about opal stones

If you want to know more about this stone, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions.

Which color opal is the best?

Black opal is the best because it’s the rarest and most highly valued type. It has a dark body tone and comes in every rainbow colour. The dark body tone makes the colors on its face appear rich and intense. 

Does opal have healing properties?

Yes, it does. It’s good for treating infections, reducing fever, and alleviating pain associated with PMS and childbirth. 

What month is the opal birthstone? 

Opal is the October birthstone.

Do opals turn yellow?

Yes, they turn yellow when they come in contact with chemicals such as resins or have insufficient water levels. 

Does opal absorb water?

It depends on the opal’s origin. Australian opal is non-porous, so it doesn’t absorb water, but Ethiopian opal is porous and absorbs water.

Is opal a crystal or a gem?

Opal is a gem. It’s classified as a mineraloid which doesn’t exhibit crystalline properties.


Is the queen of gems for you?

The opal stone represents hope, purity, serenity and calmness. It’s a great addition to your jewelry collection. You can wear it as a necklace, ring, or bracelet. The beauty of the many colors it exhibits makes it unique and valuable.

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