The October Birthstone, Opal, is valuable for its shifting colours in rainbow hues – a phenomenon known as “play-of-colour”. This has inspired many writers to compare the gem to fireworks, galaxies or volcanoes. In Ancient Greece, it was believed that Opals bestowed the gift of prophecy and protection from disease, while in Europe, it symbolised purity, hope and truth. Opal is also the stone given to celebrate the 14th wedding anniversary.
The most unusual Opal is “The Flame Queen”, which was discovered in 1915 in Australia. Its rareness is due to its unique distribution of colours. It has been compared to a poached or fried egg, as it possesses a large, organgey-red central section surrounded by a blue border. The centre of the stone changes colour to a more golden yellow when it is turned, an effect called “eye-of-opal”. Another special black opal with an impressive pattern including a rainbow of hues is the Aurora Australis. It was also discovered in Australia and it is said to resemble the southern lights in the Australian sky.
Quality factors to discover if an Opal is valuable include its play of colour, intensity and pattern. The finest opals are usually cut into irregular shapes to achieve the highest play of colour.
It is sometimes difficult to know how to clean your precious gemstones, so let us guide you on how to take care of your opals. The best way to clean this birthstone is with warm, soapy water; but you should also note that a prolonged exposure to water can weaken the adhesive in opal doublets and triplets (these are opals which are glued to a base material and covered with a thin dome of clear quartz).