The Positive Power of Opals
Designers covet these mystical stones for their kaleidoscope of colors —and their positive energy.
By: Jill Newman
Opals are a spellbinding gem. Ancient cultures believed they had supernatural powers; early Greeks thought they gave the wearer the gift of prophecy, and Europeans held them as symbols of purity and truth. They have been compared to fireworks, volcanoes and galaxies due to their otherworldly flashes of color and radiance.
Opals, with their supernatural luminosity, are also a favorite of today’s most influential jewelry designers, including Sylva Yepremian of Sylva & Cie, who is always on the hunt for the most unusual opals. “There is something ethereal and magical about opals,” she says. “No two opals are alike, and no other gem is quite like an opal.”
Designer Irene Neuwirth is so convinced of the stone’s positive energy that she has worn two opal necklaces (a Lightening Ridge black opal heart pendant and a strand of opal beads) as talismans for the past seven years.
“I love the majestic mix of color and light,” she says, “and these stones have brought me luck and all things positive.”
Whether or not you believe in the stone’s healing powers, you can’t deny that opals are one of the most mesmerizing and beautiful stones. They appear in an unexpectedly wide range of colors, shapes and sizes, and their organic-looking quality makes them one of the hottest gems of the moment. And, if they deliver positive vibes, well, that’s even better.
Here are 8 facts that tell you everything you need to know about Opals
#1 - Lightning Strikes
The most desirable opals are dark Lightning Ridge black opals (named after the region in Australia where they were discovered) which exhibit shards of radiant color—red, green, green, and purple—which appear like flashes of lightening.
Australian born designer Katherine Jetter loves to showcase top-quality black opals with colored gems that enhances the stone’s flashes of color.
#2 - Buried Treasure
More than 90 percent of the world’s opals come from the remote and unforgiving Australian outback where miners dig for opals in temperatures that often rise above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a dangerous job, but the payoff is big.
#3 - Natural Wonders
The most interesting varieties are matrix or boulder opals, which combine parts of the host rock (usually ironstone) with luminescent opal veins in large organic-shaped stones. “I love seeing the sedimentary rock with the opal because it gives us insight as to how the opal was formed in the earth 5 to 6 million years ago,” says Sylva Yepremian, who uses boulder opals in statement pendant necklaces and rings.
#4 - Just Add Water
Opals are formed when rain or water seeps into the crevasses of rocks, and when the water evaporates, it leaves behind a silica deposit that hardens into precious opal over the course of 5 to 6 million years. The color play in opals is a result of these tiny silica pieces that diffract light as it enters the stone.
"I fell head-over-heels for this opal because the colors reminded me of one of Monet’s Water Lilly"
#5 - Fire & Water
Mexican fire opals are formed when water is trapped in silica-rich lava (found in ancient volcanoes), which leaves rich reddish-orange opal deposits when it evaporates. Unlike the standard variety, these mouthwatering orange stones are typically translucent and can appear almost like glass.
#6 - The Milky Way
The most common opals are white opals, which range from transparent to milky opaque and are often tinged with pastel colors. A more unusual variety are water opals, which don’t look like opals at all; they are clear or slightly grey with a gelatinous appearance.
#7 - Pretty in Pink
Pink opals portray what Irene Neuwirth calls “a cotton candy, girly pink” opaque hue. They don’t display the opal’s typical sparkle or play of color but are coveted for their saturated blush.
“Everything I design is based on beautiful colors,” says Neuwirth, “and I love that pink opal is pretty but doesn’t appear so precious; only the person buying it knows that it’s precious.”
#8 - Gem of the Moment
Designers are turning to opals to create large-scale pieces that have an organic, natural feeling. “Opals make a quieter statement than a faceted stone,” explains Sylva Yepremian. “And that is really appealing right now.” She says women want statement jewels that they can wear everyday with everything from jeans and t-shirt to a dress. Opals deliver that versatility but still have color, character and style. They also might deliver that much-needed positive energy.