Australian opal is a gemstone that has captured the hearts and imaginations of people around the world. Known for its dazzling array of colors and unique play of light, it is one of the most sought-after gemstones on the planet. In this article, we will explore the history of Australian opal, its properties, and the ways in which it is used in jewelry.
History of Australian Opal:
Opals were formed millions of years ago from silica deposits in the earth's crust. The first opals were discovered in what is now Slovakia around 300 BC. However, it was the discovery of opals in Australia in the late 19th century that really put the gemstone on the map.
The first recorded discovery of opals in Australia was in 1849, in the town of Taronga. However, it wasn't until the 1890s that opals were discovered in significant quantities in Coober Pedy. This small town in the heart of South Australia quickly became the center of the opal trade in Australia, and it remains an important hub for opal mining today.
Types of Australian Opal:
There are several types of opal found in Australia, each with their own unique properties and characteristics.
- White Opal - This is the most common type of opal found in Australia. It has a white or light-colored body with flashes of color throughout.
- Black Opal - This is the most valuable type of opal found in Australia. It has a black or dark-colored body with flashes of color throughout. The colors in black opals are more vibrant and intense than in white opals.
- Boulder Opal - This type of opal is found in the cracks and crevices of ironstone boulders. It is characterized by a dark body color with flashes of color throughout.
- Crystal Opal - This type of opal is transparent with flashes of color throughout. It is often used in jewelry because of its clarity and brightness.
Properties of Australian Opal:
Opals are unique in that they are composed of up to 30% water. This water content is what gives opals their unique play of color, known as opalescence. When light enters the stone, it is diffracted by the water droplets, causing the colors to shift and change depending on the angle of the light.
Australian opal is also known for its hardness and durability. It has a hardness rating of 5.5-6.5 on the Mohs scale, making it relatively hard and resistant to scratching. However, it is still somewhat fragile and can be damaged by impact or exposure to heat.
Uses of Australian Opal in Jewelry:
Australian opal is a popular gemstone for use in jewelry, particularly in rings and pendants. The unique play of color and the range of colors available make it a versatile and stunning addition to any piece of jewelry. When choosing an Australian opal for jewelry, there are several factors to consider.
The first is the type of opal. Black opals are the most valuable and sought-after, but they are also the rarest and most expensive. White opals and boulder opals are more common and affordable. The second factor to consider is the quality of the opal. Look for stones with bright, vibrant colors and a high degree of opalescence. The stone should also be free of cracks and blemishes, as these can affect its durability and overall appearance.
Finally, consider the setting of the opal. Opals are often set in simple, elegant designs that allow the stone to take center stage. However, they can also be paired with other gemstones or set in more elaborate settings for a more dramatic effect.
Caring for Australian Opal Jewelry:
Proper care is essential to keeping Australian opal jewelry looking its best. Opals should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. They should also be protected from impact and abrasion, as well as exposure to harsh chemicals or heat.
To clean opal jewelry, use a soft, damp cloth to gently wipe away any dirt or debris. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as these can damage the opal. If the opal becomes cloudy or dull, it may need to be professionally cleaned or polished.
Australian opal is a beautiful and unique gemstone that has captured the hearts of people around the world. From its humble beginnings in the outback of Australia to its place as one of the most sought-after gemstones on the planet, its history is as rich and colorful as the stone itself. Whether set in a simple pendant or an elaborate ring, Australian opal is a stunning addition to any jewelry collection. With proper care and maintenance, it can be enjoyed and cherished for generations to come.