Opal A Historic Journey Opal A Historic Journey


As some of the most unique and special gemstones in the world, opals are known for their iridescent, fire-like appearance. If you look at opals from a historical context, you will find that throughout centuries, people considered that opals were made up of multiple gemstones and they were a single gem that was a cluster of different stones. This was because of the fact that many opals had radiant patterns and color combinations within them. These people believed that the spots of red were the ruby, the spots of green were the emeralds, and so on and so forth. We can assume that it was because of their iridescence and play of colors that opals had a rich history of folklore and holistic use.

Although opals are some of the most aesthetically pleasing stones that are desired by a lot of people, one problem with opals is that they are also the softest gem-grade stones in the jewelry market. This is why opals require extra care and protection, and preserving their luminous fire and sheen is difficult in the long run. Through this article, we will share all the little details of opals, with their history and meaning as well. So, let us dive right into this article that covers the historic journey of opals!

What Is Opal?

What is Opal What is Opal

You can find opals in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. An interesting fact about opal is, it’s a mineraloid and not a mineral. It is mainly formed of hydrated (wet) amorphous silica. On the Mohs Scale of hardness, opal clocks between 5.0 to 6.5. Opal is considered the traditional birthstone for the month of October, and considering the zodiac calendar, opal is best for all Librans out there (meaning, those born between 23 September and 22 October).

Talking about the types of opals, there of two types of opals, and their type is dependent on the color they take up during the formation process. The first type is the precious opals and the second type is the common opals. The precious opals showcase a beautiful optical effect that looks like a rainbow and is known as play-of-colors. On the other hand, the common opals do not display play-of-colors, and this is primarily the difference between the two types of opals.

So, what is play-of-color in an opal?

The fire-like rainbow appearance of an opal that diffracts light in different directions based on the internal structure of the opal and the angle you view it from is termed as play-of-colors. An easier way to understand this concept is by considering it an optical illusion – as white light (or any light) enters the stone, it interacts with the internal structure of the stone and as it leaves, it shows a flash of spectral colors.

Meaning of Opal

Meaning of Opal Meaning of Opal

The rich history and folklore of opal span across centuries. History suggests that in Ancient Rome, opals were considered a symbol of hope and love. Because opals have such a rich history, you will find them attributed to conflicting symbolisms and theories. Although they were looked at as a gemstone that brings good fortune, opals were also regarded as a gemstone that would bring bad luck to the wearer – it's all dependent upon the context.

Until the mid-14th century, it was considered that opals represented good fortune. But, in the 14th century, when the Black Plague hit Europe, the reputation of opal took a downturn. In this time of crisis, a rumor spread among the people that if the color of their opal became really bright, the owner of that opal jewelry would die. This was how Opal’s reputation took a downturn in the mid-14th century. And a similar thing happened in 1829.

In 1829, Sir Walter Scott published a fictional novel, Anne of Geierstein, in which, one of the characters employs an opal amulet to attain mystical powers. However, things take a tragic turn in the novel when holy water falls onto the stone and the character dies. Because Scott’s novel was very successful and popular, people began linking opals to death and bad luck. It was found that the very next year of publishing this novel, opal sales had dropped by 50% in the whole of Europe, and these sales remained considerably low for the next 25 years or so.

History of Opals

History of Opals History of Opals

Many writers have weighed up opals to fireworks, volcanoes, and galaxies. Artists have given beautiful poetic names to opals, such as Pandora, Empress, and Light of the World. Looking back in history, the earliest opals discovered until now that were used by humans date all the way back to 4000 BC. These opals were found in Kenya, in the form of ancient artifacts in a cave in 1939.

A Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder, in 75 AD, mentioned the following things about opal in one of his texts: “Some opali carry such a play within them that they equal the deepest and richest colors of painters. Others…simulate the flaming fire of burning sulphur and even the bright blaze of burning oil.” He was mesmerized by opals and exclaimed that this kaleidoscopic gem possessed the green of emerald, the red of ruby, the blue of sapphire, the yellow of topaz, and the purple of amethyst.

Talking of the Middle Ages, it was believed that opals could provide the wearer a stroke of great luck because of the vibrant color spectrum present in them. Some people also believed that wrapping a fresh bay leaf around an opal and holding it would grant them invisibility. This was one of the reasons why Opal was seen as an important gemstone by thieves of the medieval period.

In some other cultures, opals have been said to have supernatural origins and powers. For instance, the Arabic legends say that opals fell from the heavens in the form of lightning. Ancient Greeks assumed that opals bless their owners with the gift of prophecy, while also safeguarding them from all sorts of diseases.

Care and Maintenance of Opal Jewelry

Care and Maintenance of Opal Jewelry Care and Maintenance of Opal Jewelry

Because opals rank low on the Mohs Scale of mineral hardness, you should handle them with great care. Another reason why you need to take proper care of this stone is, this stone is kind of watery, and it easily chips, breaks, and gets scratched. The best way to ensure that the opal stone set in the opal jewelry is safe is, by getting it set in secure settings, such as the bezel setting.

If you want to maintain the vibrance and play-of-colors of your opal jewelry, it's best that you clean it on a regular basis. For cleaning your opal jewelry, use mild detergent and warm water. Scrub your opal jewelry with a soft bristle toothbrush or lint-free cloth. Then, immediately pat dry it with a clean soft towel. Make sure that you never clean your opal jewelry with bleaches and harsh cleaners, as these can permanently damage your opal. Also, never soak or submerge opal jewelry in water, as they tend to absorb water, and this in turn can damage the stone.

Another thing you can do for better upkeep of your opal jewelry is, bring it to the jeweler for cleaning once every six months or so. Only a jeweler can clean any residue or buildup such as grime and dust in the jewelry setting.


So, we have reached the end of this article on the historic journey of opal. Opal is truly a magnificent and unique stone, and throughout history, it has been seen as a symbol of truth, hope, and purity. At some specific points in history, opal has been seen with a negative connotation, but those were just myths among people. Want to get your hands on opal jewelry, such as opal rings, opal pendants, opal earrings, opal necklaces, or opal bracelets? We bet that you will look beautiful wearing them.

Are you looking for wholesale opal jewelry or other types of wholesale gemstone jewelry? If yes, then visit Rananjay Exports, India’s top wholesale gemstone jewelry manufacturer and supplier, exporting its gemstone jewelry and sterling silver jewelry all across the globe since 2013. Their gemstone jewelry is available in more than 250+ different gemstones, and their designer jewelry collection is huge, they have birthstone jewelry, chakra jewelry, and zodiac sign jewelry, in their designer jewelry collection. So, browse the website of Rananjay Exports and order the jewelry you require to take your retail establishment to new heights.