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Gemstone of the Month: Opal

October 07, 2015 Allison Bray

Photo by Mauro Cateb

Opals are a precious gemstone that seem to shine from within. They’re formed in a way that makes them diffract light and gives them a beautiful airy quality. The most common colours for opals are white and green, but they can also be found in all shades of the rainbow and, more rarely, in black. 

In Roman times opals were valued above all other gemstones. They were brought to the Romans by traders claiming they were from India and their name is believed to have developed from the Sanskrit word úpala which means, quite simply, ‘precious jewel’. 

Opals were once considered to be very lucky as it was believed that each colour within them represented another precious gemstone. An old wives’ tale even claimed that if you wrapped an opal in a bay leaf and held it in your hand you would be given the power of invisibility!

Worn best with… 

We believe that opals command attention! Show them off with classic neutral clothing… or go all out and attempt to match your outfit to the colours in your gem.

Best suited to… 

Opals are a stone well suited to powerful women. The gems were favoured by both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria, so they have a fantastically royal pedigree. If that’s not quite powerful enough for you, perhaps a black opal would be more your style. These rare gems were historically associated with sorceresses. 

Famous opals… 

Napoleon gave his wife Empress Josephine a stunning red opal that was known as the ‘Burning of Troy’. He’s said to have chosen it for her because she was his Helen of Troy! At the time the opal was the largest and most valuable in the world.

A Roman senator by the name of Nonius owned a beautiful opal that was known throughout the world. It was set in a ring and is recorded to have been the size of a hazelnut. General Marc Antony became very taken with the gem and wanted to give it as a gift to Cleopatra, his lover. He offered to buy the opal at a price well above its worth, but Nonius refused. Marc Antony threatened to banish Nonius from Rome and so Nonius left, leaving behind his wife and family but taking his famous opal with him!

More inspiration…

Turquoise Bead Necklace with Silver Inlaid Pendant, A Spiny Oyster Necklet, A Multi Coloured Necklet.


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