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Opal beads: Mystical, Beautiful, Evocative

I have heard opals are unlucky

This is a surprisingly persistent belief and comes from several sources. They can glitter with a mystical light, which associated them with witchcraft and sorcery. It was said to render the wearer or holder invisible, which made it a prime choice for those who prefer not to be seen: Thieves and spies! The gemstone was also said to have teleportation powers, vanishing and appearing later in unlikely areas.

Opal's beauty comes from nature, not magic, and users of opal beads certainly do not vanish from sight. Also, poor memory or mischief is likely to account for the stones wandering tendencies. Opals are widely accepted, even by the superstitious, as being the birthstone for those born in October – it is highly unlikely that any stone with 'evil properties' would make an exception for one-twelfth of the population!

What type of rock are opals found in?

Over 90% of the world's opal is mined in Australia, and it is a beautiful sight to see rough rock splitting open to reveal the fire of opal, which forms when water permeates rock and finds silicon dioxide in the right conditions. Opals, almost uniquely for precious stones, can be found in almost any kind of rock that has been subject to the right stresses and water levels.

Do all opals look the same?

No. The happy accident of their creation can explain why opals are so often so very different – even changing the way they look under different lighting. Boulder opal is formed when a thin layer of opal forms in a crack between two sheets of rock. It often takes the form of a veneer of opal, spread thinly. Fire opals are not flame-coloured, as might be expected, appearing almost translucent until they are under the light, when their vibrant colours flame, creating a beautiful effect. Fire opal can flash orange and yellow, but gleams of gorgeous green are also seen. Most opals gleam with colours in this way: Those that do not are called jelly crystal opal and they show their colours all the time, appearing somewhat like colourful jelly beans. Opals are loosely grouped into three types: white, black and boulder, and this refers to a mainly white stone in which the colours shine; a mainly black stone in which the colours shine, and boulder opal, as defined above.

Common uses for opals

Loose opals are stunning, and they can be used for most types of jewellery.

  • Earrings: A good use for opals, as they will catch the light.
  • Necklaces: Offset against the skin, the fire of opal will glow warmly.
  • Rings: Opal rings can be beautiful, but they are somewhat fragile, so they are best with bezel settings or reserved for special occasions.
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