Opal, hydrous silicon dioxide, is a non-crystalline form of quartz containing up to 30 percent water. There are many types of opal. The name Opal comes from the Sanskrit upala, meaning “valuable stone.” The common opal is milky white, but opals can run the gamut from greenish-yellow to brick red. There are some special varieties such as the fire opal of Mexico with rich reds and purples and the black opal of Australia, but there are many others besides. Some are cachalong, common (potch), boulder, girasol, harlequin, hyalite, hydrophane, ironstone, liver, moss, peacock, wood, white, and water. Unlike other opals, common or potch opal is a colorless opal produced by spheres which are not stacked orderly. Other opals have orderly stacked spheres which produce the play of colors characteristic of opals.
Some attempts have been made to synthesize opal, but no attempt has been wholly successful. The Slocum stone, created by John Slocum, was one such attempt, which while attractive, is nothing like opal. Pierce Gilson also produced an imitation in the 70s, but it is similar, it is not similar enough to fool someone familiar with opals. White opals of a lesser quality are sometimes turned into black opals by the same sugar-acid treatment which can turn chalcedony into black onyx. Another treated opal may be the “potch” opal which may be “impregnated” with plastic to give it a better show of colors. Another common practice is to make a composite stone of several opals with a backing of Opalite (a black glass produced in Belgium), making a gem less prone to crazing and cracking because it is held together by cement. Even if the opal is not doctored, it may be covered in a glaze of transparent quartz to protect it from bumps and scratches.
The common superstition is that opal is unlucky to buy for oneself unless you are born in October. Though some ethnic groups did have a fear of opals, the reputation of opal as an unlucky stone is of relatively recent origin, grown out of the dislike of lapidaries and gem-setters of a century ago in working with the difficult and brittle stone. In fact, during the Crusades, women would bestow a gem on their love to bring good fortune in battle and a safe return. The recently discovered black opals of Australia are considered especially lucky. Only the Russians felt opals to be an unhealthy gem.
The Egyptians and Babylonians held opal in high esteem as a powerful protective amulet against disease and referred to it as the “Gem of the Gods.” One story says that the storm god, jealous of the rainbow god, broke the rainbow. The pieces fell to earth and became part of the opal.
Like many others, opal was credited with making its wearer invisible, called the Stone of Thieves. According to Plato’s Republic, an opal ring turned inward to the palm was sufficient for this purpose, but Plato and Pliny’s opal was more likely an iridescent clear quartz crystal. It is also a charm against the evil eye. It strengthens weak emotions and the memory. Placed on the navel of an expectant mother, an opal could guarantee an easier birth. At one time it was also considered a love charm, but woe to the unfaithful lover for in this one instance, it would bring misfortune. If a stone given as a love token split or cracked, not an unheard of accident for such brittle stones, this was a sign of bad luck and possibly that the owner had been unfaithful.
The name in the time of Queen Elizabeth was Ophal which some believe to be derived from ophthalmos, meaning “the eye.” According to medieval folklore, gazing upon opal was supposed to be good for the eyes, counter to present lore which suggests it is bad or unlucky. Opal is useful in enhancing the vision of seers and is excellent for meditation and divination. Greek astrologers and mediums applied it to that particular use, and modern scholars suggest it should be worn alone on the little finger. Native Americans and Australian Aborigines both used the opal on the vision quests and “dreamtime.”
Andean Opal is a combination of pink, black, beige, and sometimes blue. It is useful for centering and grounding and aligns with the heart chakra. Andean opal assists in physical and spiritual journeys. Right action is emphasized over reaction. Hypnotism and divination are also influenced by this opal.
Black Opal ranges from black to gray in color. It is also an excellent grounding stone and strengthens divinatory abilities. Black opals are good for those who must know the truth, and can help the user see the truth in the people around them.
Black Plume Opal brings balance, both physical and psychological. It contains tubular or orbicular plumes. Use it for stress management and to increase the self esteem and self-love. It may also assist in seeing the aura.
Blue Opal ranges in color from blue-white to deep blue. Communication skills are enhanced by this opal, providing the user with the courage and freedom to speak at the right time. It stimulates connections between people.
Boulder Opal is brown, sometimes fiery and sometimes not. Developed slowly over time through the gradual introduction of iron oxide in the earth, they usually display a growth ring not unlike what can be found in trees. If a silica solution enters through the minute cracks caused by the dehydrating method of their creation, intense red, blue, green, purple, and milky colors may appear. Gem mystics consider this stone excellent for connecting the Earth with the stars and other worlds. Like other opals, it is grounding, but facilitates the transference of information. It sweeps away the muddy areas in the aura and enhances mental clarity, emotional security, and spiritual progression.
Cherry Opal is a clear opal ranging in color from pink-red to orange-red. It may be used in clearing the base chakra and assists in centering. Accuracy, affectivity, practicality, and clairvoyance are all qualities exemplified by cherry opal.
Common Opal is opal that contains no “fire.” Though it may not be as showy as its cousins, common opal may increase your ability to earn and retain money. It also stimulates your feelings of self-worth and enhances working and business relationships.
Dendritic Opal also contains no “fire” but forms shapes resembling plants - moss, ferns, trees. This opal promotes spiritual and physical growth. It enhances your organizational abilities.
Fire Opal is red to orange. It is useful in bringing about changes, variety, and progress. During stressful conditions or at times when you feel burnt-out, fire opal may lend you a bit more energy to deal with life. It brings hope in the future and faith in one’s self.
Golden Opal is red to orange without “fire.” It helps in defining attitudes and beliefs which are self-limiting. The crown, base, navel, and solar plexus are aligned and negativity is removed by golden opal.
Green Opal assists in ritual fasting and may help with healthy dieting. It enhances problem-solving dream states.
Honduran Opal is a basalt mixture with flecks of fire throughout. It provides stability while energizing the chakras. It does not cleanse the chakras, but increases the energy flow.
Opalized Nature consists of opalized shells, wood, or other organic stones. Generally, opalized nature assists in your progression toward destiny. Opalized bog can provide a connection to the Earth.
Pink Opal occurs in streaks of pink, white, lavender, and cream without fire. It has also been referred to as the “peppermint candy stone.” It is a stone of peace, teaching love and non-violence and helping you to release old patterns in favor of deeper psychological insights.
White Opal is milky white with “fire.” It stimulates the crown chakra and causes deep states of mental clarity. Business acumen in reference to worldly goods is inspired through this gem.
Water Opal is colorless and clear with “fire.” I can be used for scrying and acceptance of physical death.
* Like diamonds, opals are the repositories of large amounts of energy. Those who are unable to direct such energies should not wear them, and they are not recommended for teenagers. Fire opals in particular should never be worn by volatile people who suppress their feelings.
* It is recommended, if possible, that opals should be stored in water. If you cannot do this, they should be occasionally treated by running your fingers under cool water and lightly running them over the stones to keep them hydrated. A dry stone may break, or at the very least, lose its luster.