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Chemical symbol: SiO2+H2O
Crystalline system: amorphous
Color: colorless, white, brown, red, black, colored. Transparent to translucent, light iridescence.
There are many varieties of opal, e.g. milk opals are the opaque varieties, opals with a wonderful light iridescence are noble opals, which can be divided into white opals (white background), black opal (dark background – blue, brown, black and so on), harlequin opals (extremely expensive and rare, color dots are geometrically arranged) and fire opal (red to orange colored).
Opals are often indistinguishable from jasper. The iridescence of noble opals means that no two are alike. Rhodochrosite is significantly softer than fire opal.
(quick identification – may not be reliable)
a) Noble opals can be identified by their unique iridescence.
b) Check the side view of the gem. This will show whether or not it is not a doublet or triplet (where the thin layer of opal attached to background material and possibly covered with transparent layer). Doublets or triplets are of less valuable than a gem but will last longer as upper layer protects the opal layer from damage.
c) If gem contains gas bubbles, it is glass.
1. 97 percent of opals are mined in Australia. In the past, opals were mined in Hungary and Slovakia and these sites were known to the Romans.
2. In 2008, NASA announced the identification of opal deposits on Mars.
3. The word opal comes from Latin "opalus," which means “gemstones.”
4. The ancient Greeks believed the holder of an opal could gain an insight into the future.
5. The Romans considered the opal to be a symbol of hope and purity, believing it could protect against infection.
6. In ancient Arabia, people believed the opal came from Paradise and its beautiful iridescence came from lightning.
7. Opals are sensitive to pressure, acids, alkalis and heat.
8. No two opals are identical.
9. Jewelry items made with opals are a traditional gift for the fourteenth and eighteenth wedding anniversaries.
10. During the Black Death in medieval Europe, people believed the opal would predict how long an infected person had to live.
11. One of the most interesting and widespread (and obviously false) opal myths is that wearing opal jewelry in a heavy storm increases the sparkle of the stone :)
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