Published 09/24/2020 by Bethany Milsom

Explore Interesting Facts About Opal

Sometimes committing to just one color can be overwhelming, so why not have all of them? October’s birthstone, opal, is known for its rainbow of color. The more intense and diverse play-of-colors, the more expensive and priced the opal. Journey with us through the mystical world of opal and learn something you might not have known about this unique birthstone!

1. Opal is actually formed from the same material as glass - we didn’t see that coming!

October’s birthstone is made from silica (the main component of glass). When it rains, these beautiful gems form. How?  The water from the heavy rain carries the silica into rock crevices. Once the water evaporates, the silica gel is left behind and hardens over time - forming the opal! 

The craziest part? It can take roughly 5 million years for the silica to solidify into just one centimeter of opal - an insane amount of time.  

2. Did you know more than 90% of opals come from Australia?

Fun fact: The Australian natives, Aborigines, believe that opals form from the creator's footprint that touched the earth at the base of a rainbow to bring harmony. 

Opal has truly made its mark in Australia - even becoming the national gemstone of the country. Australia supplies more than 90% of all opals and is the sole supplier of the rare black opal (mined strictly in Lightning Ridge, Australia). 

Of course, October's birthstone can be found in other parts of the world. Ethiopia discovered a supply of opal in the late 1900s and now holds the record for having opals with most carats. 

Opals have even come from space! The opal birthstone has been discovered on Mars - isn’t that out-of-this-world?

3. October’s birthstone comes in a rainbow of colors. Don’t you just love having choices?

The Ancient Greeks would use the word ‘opallios,’ which means “to see a change of color,” to describe this unique birthstone. They believed that opals were formed from the tears of joy Zeus wept when he defeated the titans. 

When it comes to the unique colors of opal, there’s more than what meets the eye. The play-of-color you see when looking at opal is due to millions of tiny silica spheres in different sizes. Each refracts light, causing the spectral colors you see.

Each sphere has to be just the right size and uniform enough to create enough color for your eyes to see. Isn’t that just crazy to think about?

Opals come in every color of the rainbow. In fact, boulder opals can have ALL seven colors of the rainbow on one gem - amazing! 

4. It may sound silly, but there is actually a debate about where opal got its name.

Most historians agree that October’s birthstone, opal, got its name from the Latin word ‘opalus,’ which means ‘precious stone.’ However, some modern references believe that because of the opal’s age, the name comes actually from the Sanskrit word ‘upala,’ which means ‘jewel.’

5. Opal artifacts date back as far as 4,000 BC!

October's opals have been the muse of artists, writers, and other creators for thousands of years - and that's not an exaggeration! 

In the Middle Ages, opal was considered a stone that would bring good luck. Many believed that opal possessed all other gemstones' virtues due to its ability to represent every color of the spectrum - talk about a one-stop-shop. 

Opal was ranked second to emerald by the Romans. But for October, opal has been the clear winner for the birthstone title since the 15th century.  Who doesn't love a magical gem for a mystical month?

Blue Opal Ring

6. The opal birthstone was almost destroyed by a work of fiction - the power of words!

In 1829, Sir Walter Scott published the novel Anne of Geierstein, which gave opal an unjust negative reputation. 

In the novel, the Baroness of Arnheim wore an opal talisman that possessed supernatural powers. The wearer of the opal would have bad luck and, eventually, tragically die as a result of wearing the stone. Once people read the novel, they believed that opal was dangerous and became wary of the stone.  

Within a year of publishing Scott’s novel, the sale of opals in Europe dropped 50%. Opal sales remained low for the next 20 years - almost killing the opal industry. 

7. There are two famous opals that are each worth millions of dollars.

Olympic Australis - This monstrous opal is the largest and most valuable opal discovered to date. It was found in 1956 at the “Eight Mile’ opal field in the outback town of Coober Pedy in South Australia. 

The estimated value? Try an impressive $1,800,000 (USD).

The Virgin Rainbow - This opal is one of the rarest and most expensive opals discovered. As it gets darker, this opal appears more vibrant and actually glows in the dark! Isn’t that amazing? 

The value of this unique gem sits around $1,000,000 (USD) and was purchased by the South Australian Museum in Adelaide - add that to the bucket list.

Opal Ring

Shop October Birthstone Fashion

Hey October babes, we think it's time you #treatyourself! People say that if you're born in October, you can get luck by wearing your birthstone, opal. Whether or not that's true, there's one thing you can't deny - you're certainly lucky to have opal as your birthstone. Why?

October's birthstone is a mystery you can't seem to get away from. Some compare this unique gem to a rainbow of color or a firework show - you can't really say that about any other gem. This Queen of Gemstones will match anything you wear due to its unique variety of colors. Introduce opal necklaces, rings, bracelets and more to your outfits to add a rainbow of color. 

Tips and Tricks: 

October's opal is only a 5 - 6.5 on the hardness scale - so this gem can be fragile. Take caution while wearing your opal to ensure that you don't scratch it. 

When cleaning your opal, be sure to only use a damp cloth. Do not submerge your opal birthstone in water as it is a porous stone, and it can be damaged. 

When dressing your opal, play with it a bit by pairing other gems! Add your opal to sapphire to bring out the opal's blues. Or pair it with citrine to emphasize its yellow. Don't be shy about trying out different things. 

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