Opal is a unique and fascinating gemstone that has been used in jewellery for millennia. With its distinctive play of colours and iridescence, opal jewellery is both beautiful and eye-catching. Opals definitely deserve a place in your jewellery collection, but what do you really know about them?
In this article, we'll explore the history of opal jewellery, how opals are formed, and how to care for opal jewellery to ensure that it stays looking beautiful for years to come.
Let's get started ...
How are Opals Formed?
The process begins when silica-rich water seeps down into cracks and crevices in the Earth's crust. Over time, the water evaporates, leaving behind a deposit of silica. As this process repeats, layer upon layer of silica builds up, eventually forming a solid mineral deposit that we know as opal.
The process can take anywhere from 5 million to 20 million years, depending on the specific conditions and factors involved. The result is a unique and beautiful gemstone with a distinct play of colour, created by the way light refracts through the layers of silica.
Not all opals feature the iridescence and play of colour seen particularly in Australian opals, but instead have more of a solid colouring which can be white, yellow, pink, orange, red and even black.
The History of Opal Jewellery
Opals have been used in jewellery for thousands of years, with some of the earliest examples dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. In the Middle Ages, opals were believed to have magical powers, and they were highly prized by royalty and the wealthy.
By the 19th century, opal jewellery was becoming more widely available, and it became a popular choice for engagement rings and other special occasion jewellery.
In the 20th century, opal jewellery became even more popular and today it remains a popular choice for jewellery lovers today. With its unique play of colours and iridescence, opal jewellery is a great way to add some colour and personality to your jewellery collection.
About Australian Opals
Australia is known for producing some of the finest opals in the world, with over 95% of the world's supply of opals coming from the country.
The first opal was discovered in Australia in the 1840s, but it wasn't until the late 1800s that opal mining began in earnest. The first commercial opal mine opened in White Cliffs, New South Wales in 1890, and soon after, other deposits were found in regions such as Coober Pedy, Lightning Ridge and Andamooka.
Opal mining in Australia is still largely a small-scale industry, with many of the mines being family-run operations. However, there are also larger mining companies that employ hundreds of people and produce significant amounts of opal each year.
Today, Australian opals are highly sought after by collectors, jewellery designers and jewellery lovers around the world. With their unique and captivating play of colour, Australian opals continue to be a very popular choice for those looking for a distinctive and beautiful gemstone.
How to Care for Opal Jewellery
Opals are relatively delicate and require a bit of special care to keep them looking their best. Here are some tips for caring for your opal jewellery:
- Opal is quite a soft gemstone, so store your opal jewellery separately from other jewellery to avoid scratches and damage. Soft cloth pouches or jewellery boxes are ideal for storage of precious jewellery.
- Clean your opal jewellery regularly to remove dirt and oil buildup. To clean opal jewellery, simply wash it in warm soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly. Check out our comprehensive jewellery cleaning guide for more tips.
- Avoid getting your opal jewellery wet regularly or for extended periods, especially if the opals are doublets or triplets which have artificial backings. We recommend taking it off when showering or swimming. If your opal jewellery gets wet, you should dry it quickly and thoroughly to prevent damage.
- For high value opal jewellery, we recommend having your pieces professionally inspected and cleaned periodically to ensure that it stays in top condition.
- Avoid exposing opal jewellery to harsh chemicals, such as bleach and cleaning agents, as these can damage the gemstone. Take care if using chemical cleaners on precious metal which has opals set into it: clean around the stones as best you can and be sure to rinse and dry thoroughly when you're done.
- Never expose opal jewellery to extreme temperature changes, as this can cause the gemstone to crack or become discoloured. In particular don't use a steam cleaner on opals.
Add Some Beautiful Opal Jewellery to your Collection
Opal jewellery is a beautiful and unique choice of gemstone for jewellery lovers. Whether you're looking for a special occasion piece or just an intriguing and subtly colourful addition to your collection, opals are a truly special option.
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At Simone Walsh Jewellery we have a selection of affordable opal jewellery, including some small and beautiful Australian opals, Mexican fire opals and solid colour variants in pinks, yellows and whites.