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October birthstone Opal

October's
Traditional Birthstone is
Opal

fire opal from Mexico
 
 

About Opal

Opal is brittle, heat sensitive, and breaks and scratches easily; additionally, some varieties self- destruct through the loss of water.

Even with these drawbacks, opal's unsurpassed beauty guarantees its status as a premier gemstone. The derivation of its name even adds to its position.

raw opalReportedly, opal's name evolved from the Roman word opalus from the Greek word opallios meaning "to see a change of color." The Greek word was a modification of the ancient Indian Sanskrit name for opal, upala, which meant "precious stone." If one spoke in mixed tongues, then opal would be opallios upala, "to see a change of color precious stone."

Opal has over one hundred variety and trade names, but the list of accepted or commonly used names is much shorter. The most important and most widely known opal is the precious opal.

Precious opal may be subdividedopals further by color modifiers, white, black, pinks, and blue, which describe the body color of the opal. Australia is famous for its white and black precious opal.

Fire opal, the bright red, reddish-yellow, orange, or brownish-red body colored opal is the second most important opal commercially. Until recently, the best fire opal came from Mexico.

 

Opal: Myth, Legend and Folklore

As indicated by the derivation of its name, opal has centuries of history as a treasured gemstone. Historically, beliefs associated with the wearing of opal have varied.

The early Greeks thought that opals gave their owners the powers of foresight and prophecy, and the Romans adored it as a token of hope and purity. Eastern people regarded it as sacred, and Arabs believed it fell from heaven.

opalsIn the nineteenth century, superstitions grew about the bad luck or fate that could befall one for wearing opal if it were not the wearer's birthstone. Today, these superstitions have diminished, but some people still believe it is bad luck to wear opals.

 

Care and Handling of Opals

Opals are very sensitive gemstones that love to be worn.  Because they contain a high percentage of water, contact with the skin helps keep them hydrated and enhances the luminescent color.

opalsOpals that are exposed to heat or dryness will become brittle and fissures and cracks can appear in the stone.  Jewelry settings should be protective and secure. 

Protect your opals from chemicals like beauty products, makeup and cleaning products.  Clean your opals with a soft moist cloth and never use ammonia or an ultrasonic cleaner. 

Store each piece of jewelry separately to protect the gemstones and keep them in a cool, dark place with moderate humidity so they do not dry out.

 

Opal as engagement, anniversary & Zodiac gifts

Opal is the traditional birthstone for October and the gemstone for the 14th anniversary.  In 1987, opal became the precious gemstone for the state of Nevada.  It is the zodiac gem for Libra or Scorpio.
 
Photo source:  All photos on this page came from the geology webpages of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. and the Unite States Geological Service which also supplied information


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