Ten interesting facts about this unique looking gemstone
1 Basically, opal is made up of water and silica (the main component in glass).
2 The beautiful opal is formed from rain. There is some conjecture on how exactly this precious gemstone forms, but many believe it is formed when water from rain seeps down into crevasses in the rock. Once the water evaporates, the silica that is left behind dries out and hardens into precious opal.
3 Occurring in most varieties of rock, the vast majority of opals are mined in Australia (about 95%), with other opal digs occurring in the United States, Mexico, Peru and Brazil.
4 The Virgin Rainbow is one of the world’s rarest and most expensive opals. It literally glows in the dark. In fact, as it gets darker around the opal, the opal appears ever more vibrant. It’s valued at over $1 million and was purchased by the South Australian Museum in Adelaide.
5 Opal has been found on Mars! It is one of only a handful of gemstones that have ever been discovered outside of our planet (the other gemstone being Peridot that’s found from outer space).
6 Many people believe that wearing an opal if it is not your birthstone or buying an opal for yourself is bad luck. There are many stories of opals getting lost or destroyed and the owner blaming the occurrence on this superstition. One reason the superstition may have developed is due to the fact that opals are a softer stone and more susceptible to damage.
7 Opals were first set in European crown jewels by Napoleon Bonaparte. He gifted his wife, Empress Josephine, a superb red opal that had such fiery sparkle it was named “The Burning of Troy”. In the late 1700’s opals fell out of fashion, until Queen Victoria revived their popularity. During her reign, vast opal fields were discovered in Australia and as the British monarchy was considered a leader in fashion at the time, opals were soon back in vogue.
8 There are several claims about the origin of the name “Opal.” One is that the name comes from the Sanskrit word “Upala,” which means “valuable stone.” Another claim is that the name came from the Greek word “Opallios,” which means to see a change of color.
9 Mexican opals are completely different from all other opals. They are transparent and orange in colour sometimes with a yellow flash and are commonly faceted.
10 An opal’s play of color is just one of the factors that determine its value. The other two are brilliance and size.