October’s Birthstone: Opal

Opal Mining in Arizona and the U.S.

Only a handful of states in the U.S. mine different varieties of opal and our great state of Arizona is home to two of these mines.  A few hours south of the Gilbert/Mesa area, in Santa Cruz county, precious blue opal is mined. The beauty of these opals can be seen in spectacular shades ranging from navy blue to cerulean to a light, light blue. Whether crafted into jewelry or sold in their rough form, the blue opal from Arizona showcases a classic taste of the Southwest. Other opal mines throughout the U.S. include Idaho, Louisiana and Oregon with the largest quantity coming from Nevada1. Worldwide, Australia is the leading producer of this variable gemstone, particularly the coveted Black Opal.

Brief Opal Background

Derived from ancient languages the word opal means ‘to see a change of color.’  Throughout time the beliefs about this stone are as varied as its colors.  Some revered the stone as sacred, believing it fell from heaven giving those that wore opals the power of prophecy. Other history, however, suggests that bad luck may be associated with wearing an opal when in is not your birthstone1.  Regardless of its mixed history, the opal remains a highly sought after gem for its variety of color and color play in the light.

The Many Colors of Opal

The color spectrum of the opal is as varied as the colors of the rainbow.  Generally an opal will have a background color with an array of other flashing colors called, play-of-color2.  Because this gem is so diverse there are many classifications but the main opal types are:

Black  – black or dark background, opaque (play-of-color shows well)
White/light – white or light gray background, semi-translucent
Fire – yellow, orange, red or brown color, transparent to translucent
Crystal/water – clear background (shows exceptional play-of-color), translucent
Boulder – light to dark background, part of the surrounding rock are left with the gem

As you can see, the opal is truly one of the most diverse gemstones and the black opal is currently ranked as one of the most rare and valuable gems in the world3.

Color of an Opal: Most common are white or translucent, milky opals
Variations on Color: Most valued are Black Opals for their rarity and intense color play but you can find opals in almost any color on the spectrum
Birthstone Month: October
Wedding Anniversary Year: 14 & 34

The vast assortment of color found in opals makes October’s birthstone the perfect birthday gift to delight anyone’s taste!  Let us know if we can help you find a specific type of opal or if you have general questions please contact us.

1. “Opal”. U.S. Geological Survey, 2014. Web. Retrieved August 27, 2014.

2. “Opal Description”  Gemological Institute of America inc., 2002-2014. Web. Retrieved August, 28 2014. <http://www.gia.edu/opal-description>

3. “Top 10 World’s Rarest and Most Valuable Gems” Discovery Communications, LLC., 2014. Web. Retrieved August 28, 2014. <http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/game-of-stones/top-ten-rarest-gemstones.htm>


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