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The Complete Guide to Opal History



The opal is a beautiful and unique stone that radiates a mystical charm. Composed of silica and water, opals are most prominently found in limonite, sandstone, and basalt. Arguably one of the more diverse stones in the world always has been and will likely remain incredibly popular. But what is the meaning of opal? What do these stones signify? For starters, the opal is the official birthstone of October. The word opal comes from the Latin opalus, meaning precious jewel, and the Greek opallios meaning “to see a change in color”. The stone itself often symbolizes confidence and faithfulness. On the other hand, the opal spiritual history consists of relations to the sacral chakra.


From black opals to fire opals and a whole variety in between, there are many options available at both your local retailer and online retailers–each with its own meaning. For starters, the white opal meaning is symbolic of everlasting love, grace, and harmony. On the other end of the spectrum, the black opal meaning is representative of cleansing, renewal, and purification. The fire opal meaning represents the joy of the heart and, finally, the opal crystal meaning is derived from love, passion, and desire. As you can see, it is quite a special stone, as the opal stone's meaning varies from color to color. In this article, we’ll discuss opals at length ranging from their history to what they mean today.


The History of Opals


While the exact origin of opals is unknown, they are thought to be from Ethiopia, dating back to 4000 B.C. Opal discoveries progressed over time much like the production of diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. Interestingly enough, many cultures took an interest in the opal, often suggesting that they come from supernatural origins and even possess such powers. In fact, the ancient Greeks believed opals granted their owners the gift of prophecy while protecting them from illness. Europeans additionally consider opals to be the symbol of purity, hope, and truth. No matter what the opal symbolized to you, one thing is for certain–the opal is a widely popular stone. From opal engagement rings and opal wedding rings to opal earrings and even the opal necklace, the market is saturated with opal jewelry.


The Discovery of the Opal Stone


The opal stone was initially discovered by Sam Brooks and Roy Shepherd at Lighting Ridge, South Wales, Australia in the late 1880s. The opal was found among “floaters” following an outback thunderstorm at Treloar's Hill. They quickly took the stones to the station owner at Andamooka Homestead by the name of Mr. Foulis. After drawing much attention, between 1901 and 1901 the first mining shaft was dug to mine more of the stones. While the opal stone did not appear in the world market until the 1890s, it stands today as Australia’s national stone. Furthermore, Australia is responsible for supplying 95% of the world’s opals.


Natural Opals vs. Lab Created Opals


Whether you’re seeking opal rings for women or you’re looking for a jewelry item with an opal birthstone, you should know the difference between natural and lab-created opals. First, lab opals are more affordable and require little maintenance. Alternatively, natural opals contain a good amount of water that can result in dehydration and fracturing. In terms of durability, however, natural opals are much stronger. In addition, natural opals are typically smaller in size. So, if you’re buying opals for investment purposes, you may want to consider going the natural route. On the other hand, if you’re looking to get an affordable option that is still equally beautiful, lab-created opals are a great option.


The Significance of Opals throughout History


As we discussed in the beginning, opals have a long history that can be traced through a multitude of different cultures. Naturally, the significance of the opal stone varies from culture to culture, just like the meaning of each opal color. Over time, the opal is mentioned by writers as a kaleidoscopic gem that encompasses the red of ruby, the green of emerald, the yellow of topaz, the blue of sapphire, and the purple of amethyst. In ancient Rome, the opal symbolized love and hope. Arabic legends said that opals fall from the sky in flashes of lightning. So, as you can see, opals have had quite a profound effect on the world that continues today.


What Does the Opal Mean Today?


The meaning of opal, while it varies greatly throughout time and among different cultures, remains much the same today. In fact, to this day the opal stone is still associated with good luck, hope, purity, and fidelity. And that is why today you’ll see so many opal engagement rings and opal wedding rings. Alternatively, opal earrings and necklaces are commonly gifted on various occasions, ranging from birthdays and anniversaries to Christmas and Hanukkah.


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