Easily one of the most beloved gemstones is opal.
The story of how opal is made is a long one. It takes 5 to 6 million years for opal to form naturally, and is composed of silicon dioxide and water. When water runs through the cracks of the earth, it picks up silica from the sandstone, carrying the now silica and water solution further down into the earth. These cracks in the earth are normally natural faults or from fossils when they decompose. When the water evaporates, it leaves this silica deposit in the crack. However, this process has to happen over and over again until the opal eventually forms.
The thing that gives opal its colour is the silica. When opal is formed, the silica is shaped like little tiny spheres, these little spheres are all pushed together, similar to a bag of marbles. When light hits the opal, these tiny silica spheres within the opal refract the light as colours.
Depending on how big or small these silica spheres are, will depend on what colour can be seen. The smaller silica spheres tend to give off a green, blue or purple colour, whereas the bigger ones give off red, orange, pink or yellow colours. Larger silica spheres tend to be more rare, making opals with red-ish colours more prized.
However not all opal has colour, when opal doesn’t have colour, it is sometimes referred to as potch, this happens when the silica doesn’t form into spheres or when the pattern of spheres is too irregular.
Opal is found all over the world in Mexico, Peru, Canada, South America, the United States, Honduras, Slovakia and of course, it is found here at home, in Australia.
There are many different types of opal. You can get white opal, crystal opal, matrix opal, boulder opal and more, the rarest of all opal is black opal. Black opal can only be found in NSW Australia, in and around a beautiful little town called Lightning Ridge. Many people mine in and around Lightning Ridge, on areas called claims. In these claims, miners will venture underground digging out tons and tons of earth and bringing it up to the surface. Once it is up in the sunlight, they wash it in drums and meticulously sort though each piece, looking for that prized gleam and shimmer or opal.
Due to opals being very rare, lab created opals are on the market and they are just as enchanting as the real deal. For many years there was allot of mystery about how lab opals were made, with nobody, except the creators knowing. However now we know the secret. Surprisingly, the process of making lab opals is almost exactly the same as how nature makes them, except a little speedier and being made by human. Creating lab opal is still slow process as millions of identical silica spheres need to be made and then lined up perfectly, this can take over a year to do in some cases. Due to this tedious process, lab opal is often treated with the same respect and love as real opal.
Both lab made opal and natural opal have the same metaphysical properties because their composition being the same.
Opal is a crystal of clarity, cleansing and love. It clears confusion from situations where your judgement may be clouded by exterior factors. It assists you in opening up and becoming your real self. Additionally, opal also has the ability to cleanse both yourself and your environment, replacing it with positivity. Opal is associated with love and passion, encouraging you to love yourself and others. It is said that opal brings loyalty, making it a popular stone amongst couples.
Historically opal has always been prized. The ancient Greek’s believe that opals had the ability to guard them from disease and bring about prophecies. Arabic legends tell a story of how opal fell from the heavens in lightning. One common characteristic about opal that is seen in many cultures is that it is a symbol of hope and happiness.