by Suzanne Sachs • 5 min read
THE BASICS --
Do you to wear a gemstone that flashes fire in every color of the rainbow, against pearly white, dramatic black, or translucent crystal? The meaning and symbolism of opals are almost as colorful as opals themselves. Throughout history, they have symbolized magical powers, vision, passion, and the virtues of all precious stones. Even the word "opal" comes from the Sanskrit word úpala, meaning "precious stone." Anyone celebrating in October has an equally richly-colored stone to enjoy if they embrace this month’s birthstone, the beautiful flashes of opal.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW--
What is Opal?
Opals are made when silica that was dissolved in water forms gemstones deep underground. When the silica forms in a regular pattern of tiny spheres, it creates fire (or precious) opal. The colors of the opal depend on the size of the silicon spheres.
Opal Meaning and Symbolism
• Greek Mythology
Because of the way that colors could appear and disappear, the Greeks believed that opals could make the wearer invisible. This belief in opal's powers lasted even through Elizabethan times. Many legends also associate opals with good vision and in many countries, opals were thought to help prevent eye diseases. In later years, opals also represented a magicians ability to see into hidden meanings and the future.
• Roman Mythology
The Romans loved opal more than any other stone. The famous Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote, "For in them you shall see the living fire of ruby, the glorious purple of the amethyst, the sea-green of the emerald, all glittering together in an incredible mixture of light." They thought that opals combined the mystical traits of all other stones as well as their visual traits. According to legend, Mark Anthony offered Nonius, a Roman senator, a choice. Nonius could sell him his prize opal or be banished from Rome. His opal meant more to him than his home, and so Nonius chose to pack his bags.
• Love and Passion
Opals with a red flash symbolize love and passion. Emperor Napoleon gave Josephine an opal with a vivid red fire, called "The Burning of Troy," to symbolize his love for her. When Queen Elizabeth II married, the Returned Sailors' Soldiers' and Airmen Imperial League of Australia sent an opal brooch as a wedding gift, with the opal symbolizing love and marriage. Opals also symbolize maternal love. In 1836, the Countess of Blessington wrote a book, Gems of Beauty. One of the poems describes an opal's constantly flashing fire as an ideal gift from a mother to a daughter. "Even so doth love pervade a mother's heart; Thus, ever active, looks through her fond eyes."
• Dream Symbolism
In dream interpretation, opals are said to mean that you will soon become rich. As in Roman times, this meaning for opals might be because they show the colors of every jewel, so symbolize all of them. Having an opal in a dream means you will soon have every jewel you might want.
Fire opal is what we usually think of when we imagine an opal. It’s a mix of colors with patterns called flash, because they move and shift with the light. In terms of color, most fire opals come in three main color categories: white opal, black opal, and crystal opal. This describes the primary background color. While black opals are rarest and the most expensive, white and crystal opals are also stunning and valuable. A white or crystal opal with good color and fire is more valuable than a black opal without as much color. Mexican fire opal has very limited flash and is usually orange or red.
Opals are soft, approximately 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale, so if you have a solid opal, make sure that the setting protects the edges. Opals can dry out if you expose them to heat, especially dry heat, for a long period, so don’t wear one in the sauna. They’re also sensitive to some chemicals, so avoid wearing an opal in a swimming pool.
Victorian Engagement Rings
Queen Victoria regularly wore opals and gave magnificent opal jewelry to her daughters and daughters-in-law, opal's. Now, most people recognize that if you have opal jewelry, you are very lucky indeed! Opals are a popular Victorian choice and opals with diamonds and other gemstones in rose gold are a classic combination. An opal ring is a romantic and timeless choice.
Choosing an Opal Ring
Regardless of what you’re celebrating, what type of jewelry you prefer or what your personal vintage style may be, an opal engagement ring can make a striking statement not just in October, but all year long.