The word opal comes from the Latin word “opalus” meaning precious jewel. It was called “Cupid Paederos” by the Romans, meaning a child beautiful as love. In mythology, the gods saw it as the embodiment of the beauty of all precious stones. Opals were said to be the tears of joy shed by Zeus when he conquered the Titans.
The opal dates back to prehistoric times. It is non-crystallized silica, which is a mineral found near the earth’s surface in areas where geothermal hot springs existed. As the hot springs dried up, layers of silica combined with water, were deposited into the bedrock cracks forming opal. Opals contain up to 30% water, so it is very important to protect it from heat and harsh chemicals. With a ranking of only 5.5 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale, opal is very soft and can break easily so it must be protected from sharp blows.
There are 4 types of precious opals: white (also known as light opals), fire, water and black opals. White are the most common and the black opals are the most rare.
Opals were believed to ward off nightmares and protect the eyesight. They were set into crowns and worn in necklaces to ward off evil. It has a beneficial effect on the psyche, healing broken hearts and restoring inner harmony. Opal is believed to provide foresight and prophecy.
The opal is the national gemstone of Australia and the suggested stone for the 14th wedding anniversary. A gift of opal is symbolic of faithfulness and confidence.