Monday, October 5, 2009

GEMSTONE OF THE MONTH | OPAL


The unique beauty of the opal gemstone is unlike any other; it holds within it the vibrant colors of all gemstones. Brilliant flashes of red, yellow, blue, and green sparkle and twinkle within a fluid blue-green background. For this reason, the early Romans called it "the queen of gems."

Opals form when water transports silica along the fissures of boulders. When the water evaporates the silica hardens and over time creates what we know as an opal stone.

The distinctive color of opal is caused by "internal diffraction"; very small grids holding spheres break apart light into color. The size of the spheres determines the color. Large spheres create a multitude of hues, while smaller ones create a single, uniform color.

For many centuries, the stone came to symbolize purity, love, fidelity, and hope; but the opal's reputation took a sinister turn in the early 19th century.

The protagonist of Sir Walter Scott's popular novel, Anne of Geuerstein, wore a magic opal stone in her hair. The stone's colors would change reflecting the protagonist's moods. After a few sprinkles of holy water touched the stone, it lost its color and the protagonist took ill and died.

For nearly half a century after the book's release, the sale of opals dropped dramatically. England's Queen Victoria, however, was unfazed by the widely accepted superstition buying the stones for her daughters as wedding gifts.

Now of course, the stone is highly sought after and are primarily mined in Australia. The opal is a fragile gem that chips easily and requires careful maintenance. It is best to keep it away from heat, acid, and from other pieces of jewelry that can scratch it.

The opal is believed to cure eye problems, soothe the nerves, and enhance metabolism. The stone is also believed to improve communication, and awaken psychic abilities.

Among the world's most famous opals is the magnificent Opal Peacock Brooch, which is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

It is a spectacular piece, donated by the brilliant Harry Winston, fashioned from a sapphire stone forming the head moving along to a diamond encrusted neck, and a 22-carat opal forms the body while the tail feathers are a composite of emeralds, diamonds, sapphires, and rubies.

One of the world's largest opals, worth $2 million dollars, is the Olympic Australis Opal, found in Australia in 1956.
______________
Photo 1 (top left): Opal Peacock Brooch
Post a Comment
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...