The psychedelic opal is both October’s birthstone and the national stone of Australia.
Despite its reputation for being a challenging gemstone to work with due to its delicate nature, it is impossible not to be won over by the mesmerising opal. Most commonly cut into cabochon form, opals exist in a variety of colours from the much sought after black opals to fiery reds, greens and harlequin blues. Perhaps more than any other stone they display a powerful capability to radiate light and internalised colour through their characteristic surface structure, made up of small cracks and impurities which forces light to diffract as it passes through the stone.
Numerous legends and tales surround this enigmatic gemstone, many of which descend from aborigine culture. It is reported in Aborigine legend that the creator came down to Earth on a rainbow in order to bring the message of peace to all humans. At the very spot where his foot touched the ground the stones became alive and started sparkling in all the colours of the rainbow, signalling the birth of the opal gemstone.
Opals have also been recorded in Western history as far back as Ancient Rome. Pliny, the famous Roman author, noted the opal as being a gemstone which combined the best possible characteristics of Almandine, Amethyst, the golden yellow of Topaz and the deep blue of Sapphire, ”so that all colours shine and sparkle together in a beautiful combination”. In the Middle Ages, the opal was considered a stone that could provide great luck because it was believed to possess all the virtues of each gemstone colour represented in the colour spectrum of the opal. Of these powers, traditionally the opal is attributed with protecting the wearer from hardship and misfortune. It is also believed to enhance imagination and creativity whilst also improving long-term memory.
The Olympic Australis Opal is the largest and most valuable opal found to date. It was mined in 1956 at the Eight Nile Opal field in the outback of Southern Australia. Named in honour of the Olympic Games that were held in Melbourne at the time it was discovered, the opal weighs 17,000cts and is currently valued at $2,500,000 Australian Dollars.
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