Opal’s flashes of color and kaleidoscope effect make it one of the most striking gemstones you can work with. Its allure has captivated since antiquity where it was lauded for its ability to bring good luck to those who wore it.
And there are dozens of gorgeous opal varieties you can choose for your collection. Even if you aren't sure which ones you're ready to work with or how you can use opal with the gemstones you already own, it's worth exploring this remarkable stone.
In this post, you'll learn about the healing properties associated with opal's different forms. We'll delve into its connection to Cleopatra and help you feel confident using opal to calm your mind, bust through blockages, and create a catalyst for transformation.
What Is Opal?
In Athena Perrakis’ book, “Crystal: Lore, Legends & Myths,” she shares how opal’s name derives from both the Sanskrit word for precious stone, “upala,” and the Latin word for change color, “opalus.”
Generally, opal forms in sedimentary rocks where silica is released into groundwater. When the water content is rich with silica, the magic can begin. As the water gets trapped in between sandstone and other rocks, it morphs into a gel, eventually solidifying into an opal.
Opals are part of the amorphous crystal system. They have conchoidal, or shell-like, fracturing (picture the ripples on a rough piece of black obsidian). Its chemical formula is SiO₂·nH₂O.
Opals have a hardness of 4.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale and a specific gravity of 1.98 to 2.25. If you want your opal to last, treat it with care. It’s a soft stone, so coming into contact with hard surfaces could cause it to scratch or even crack.
Though opal typically has a pearly or waxy luster, this doesn't impede the sparkle it sometimes displays. Because opal is composed of tiny silica spheres, when light enters the stone, it's reflected back in flashes of different colors, creating the play of color we see in natural opals. This glimmering opalescence is part of its unique beauty. These precious stones come in a variety of colors too. It's not uncommon to find white, red, orange, yellow, pink, blue, green, gray, and even black opals.
Deposits of common opal are found worldwide, with several notable mines across Australia. Queensland has quarries yielding gemstones, as does Lightning Ridge in New South Wales. Opals can be found in Andamooka, Mintabie, and Coober Pedy in South Australia too.
Internationally, you can find opal deposits in Canada, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Brazil, and Honduras, with shimmering fire opals found throughout Mexico.
There are also some opal deposits in the United States in the Virgin Valley in Nevada, as well as in Idaho, Oregon, and California.
Different Forms of Opal
Aside from color, there are several different forms of opal you can choose from. The most desirable of which are solid opal gemstones shaped into cabochons where their sparkling colors are on full display. They're valued by their carat weight.
Sometimes you’ll find cabochons where a thin layer of opal is attached to a black backing and overlaid with glass or clear quartz. These are known as opal triplets or doublets, depending on the thickness of the opal.
Triplets are frequently used in mass-produced jewelry and are much cheaper than solid opal stones. They can be easier to find too. Doublets are a little more expensive because the layer of opal is thicker than that of triplets. While they aren't always entirely natural, they can be an affordable way to enjoy opal's natural beauty.
Opal gemstones come in several different varieties. Examples include:
- Boulder Opal: Boulder opals are an Australian opal you can find in the cracks of ironstone or sandstone boulders.
- Yowah Opal: Yowah opals are another Australian variety of opal found in Yowah in Queensland. They’re usually the size of a walnut and form in ironstone as well.
- Crystal Opal: Crystal opals are transparent crystals where you can see the characteristic rainbow of opal’s colors throughout the stone.
- Hyalite: Hyalite is a yellow and transparent form of opal that does not exhibit a play of color.
- Hydrophane Opal: Hydrophane opals are extraordinarily porous, and when submerged in water, they become nearly invisible.
- Matrix Opal: Matrix opal occurs when a thin layer of opal is left behind on the host rock.
- Water Opal: Water opals, also known as jelly opals, have a jelly-like appearance with a blue-tinged sheen.
- Welo Opal: Welo opals are mined in Ethiopia’s Welo (also known as Wollo) Province and known for their spectacular play of color.
- Wood Opal: Sometimes, opal will replace another mineral entirely without changing its appearance from the original. Wood opal is a perfect example of this. It takes on the appearance of a tree and can have a pattern mirroring its rings or the grain of the wood.
Opal Throughout History
Natural opal has found a place in both the historical record and mythology. The Greek poet Onomakritos wrote about the fire and beauty of opals in one of his poems. Perhaps he was inspired by the belief that Mount Olympus was formed entirely of luminescent opals and that opals could be found wherever a Greek god walked on earth.
Perrakis recounts a story involving Cleopatra and her lover Mark Antony. A Roman general, Marcus Nonius, owned a stunning opal ring reported to be as large as a hazelnut. Mark Antony had a penchant for bestowing lavish gifts on his beloved, and he was determined to secure the ring.
Even though Mark Antony offered the general a handsome sum for the precious stone, Nonius refused. Ancient Romans believed opal could bring the wearer good luck, which may be why the general was reluctant to part with it. Antony was so enraged he gave him an ultimatum — sell the ring or leave Rome. Antony was left empty-handed.
Opals were valued by other civilizations throughout the centuries. Simmons and Ahsian relay how the Aztecs were fond of fire opal, which conquistadors eventually brought to Europe. Opals became popular in France where it was thought to help someone become invisible. For this reason, it ultimately became a favorite among thieves, sullying its reputation.
Exploring Opal and Its Metaphysical Properties
Each variety of opal comes with its own distinctive and unique set of healing properties, enabling you to customize the experience you have working with the gemstones. From assisting with emotional healing to enhancing sleep quality or clearing your energy field, opal gemstones may be just the stone for you.
Here are a few of the ways you can use natural opal stones in your everyday life.
Take a hint from this stone's pink color and use pink opal to connect with your heart chakra. Simmons and Ahsian detail how pink opal stones can help you connect more deeply with your heart chakra and assists with emotional healing.
When you're hoping to find the strength to move on from a breakup or find a way to cultivate greater self-love and compassion, turn to pink opal healing crystals. Chakra bracelets are an easy way to tap into the healing properties of gemstones, so see if you can find one made with pink opal beads.
You can enhance the effects of pink opal by combining it with other healing stones that support the heart chakra. Rose quartz, emerald, garnet, rhodochrosite, moss agate, and jade all complement the healing properties of this opal variety.
One of white opal's most potent metaphysical properties lies in its ability to clear your energy field and rebalance your chakra system. You can also use this opal variety to help you make a connection with angelic realms and cosmic consciousness. It's an ideal companion for your meditation practice.
Maybe you feel as though your intuition has been a bit fuzzy lately and you'd like to restore and even heighten the connection you have with it. Picking up an opal pendant is a fantastic way to use opal's healing properties as you go about your day.
If you're someone whose mind turns up the chatter the moment you try to find a moment of relaxation, blue opal could be helpful for you. The calming energies of blue opal can quell anxious thoughts, allowing you to wind down at night or find a serene moment of focus in the middle of your workday.
Blue opal can do more than help you center your mind. Simmons and Ahsian mention how it can help the wearer retain knowledge, making it an ideal stone to work with when you need to learn a new skill. Pair your blue opal with clear quartz to give your brainpower a boost.
Fire opal's vibrant coloring stirs the energy in your lower chakras, helping you step into your power and creativity. Aside from encouraging feelings of confidence, fire opal helps you release shame and inhibitions, creating a space where you are free to be your authentic self. It can work to help you get out of your own way too.
How many times have you set out to replace an old habit with a new one or promised yourself you'd start crossing things off your to-do list? Instead, you put it off and never get started when you intend to.
You can use fire opal to help you overcome the resistance you feel in those situations and initiate change and progress instead. Pick up a piece of jewelry made with fire opal and let its twinkles of light remind you how capable you are of showing up for yourself in all ways.
Like many darker colored stones, black or brown opals can be effectively used as protection stones and for grounding your energy.
When you feel as though you may have picked up the vibrations of people or places around you, use black opal to cleanse your auric field and refresh your energetic space.
Another way you can put black opal's healing properties to work are in moments when you're feeling down or blue. Life can be unpredictable, and sometimes it feels like a challenge to regain our balance. Use black opal to gently usher in lighter and more positive emotions. Allow this variety of opal to uplift you and help you shake off those sad feelings.
Use Opal Gemstones to Enhance Your Spiritual and Emotional Well-Being
Throughout history and into our modern times, people have used different types of opal to adorn themselves and enrich their lives. Precious opal gemstones are treasured for a good reason.
Let your intuition guide you in selecting the perfect gemstone. With opal, you can harness its metaphysical properties to soothe your emotional body, amplify feelings of confidence, and even facilitate a spiritual awakening.