Opals & Gemstones

Crystal Opals --- What are they, and what to look for

Buying Opals can sometimes feel daunting. To the casual or inexperienced buyer, the exercise might seem convoluted, a bit jargon heavy, and most importantly full of geologically-laden issues regarding the value and origin of the gemstone. A quite prevalent term one is likely to stumble upon while making an Opal purchase is “Crystal Opals.” In this article we’re going to answer some of the most searched questions on Google regarding this branch of the Opal family. Questions like, what are crystal Opals? Are crystal Opals real or artificial? Where are crystal Opals mined? And, finally, what is the value of crystal Opal?


What are crystal Opals?


Crystal Opal, the term, refers to any type of Opal - black, semi-black, white, etc - which has a transparent or somewhat translucent appearance. In the world of Opals, among geologists, miners, and jewelers, this quality, this ephemeral characteristic, is oftentimes called “the diaphaneity of the stone.” Opals of this type are a jewelers dream and are considered premium gemstones for the confection of rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces and other types of ornamentation. Why? Because crystal Opals can in fact reflect a vast kaleidoscope of colors — a breathtaking spectrum that exceeds most other stones, a dance of light just beyond the grasp of more opaque Opals.


The translucent nature of crystal Opals gives them a famed clarity, both dynamic and vibrant, particularly when they come in contact with light. Though beautiful in their own right, this crystalline quality of crystal Opals is one that opaque stones lack. 


How can you identify a crystal Opal?


The best, and to a degree the easiest way of identifying whether you’re in the presence of a crystal Opal is to test its body tone against a good light source. Hold the Opal up to the light - if the stone appears milky or slightly opaque, it’s probably a white Opal or some other form of non-crystal Opal.  However, if enough lumens pass through the gemstone, or if you can see clearly through the gem, then you are most likely holding a crystal Opal.


Why do we say most likely?


Because, the gemstone market bears an abundance of well crafted synthetic Opals (lab grown but comprised of the same components as natural Opal), man-made stones (made with natural Opal parts, but not naturally grown), and outright counterfeits (not real Opal material presented as such). Artificial Opals are sometimes passed off as authentic and sold at staggering prices. That’s why it is important to understand how Opals are valued, what characteristics to look for when buying one, and why their origin is important. In the latter’s case, most quality Opals come from Australia - over 95% of them. Australian mining, due to rather strict government oversight, is one of the most supervised gemstone markets on the planet. These gemstones are typically classified (many lean on AOEA - Australian Opal Ebusiness Association - Standards) and credible suppliers are usually happy to address inquiries about stone type, origin or authenticity. 


Nonetheless, there are certain parts of the world where the market is less controlled. Where unscrupulous dealers trade in counterfeit crystal Opal, or use tanning practices to smoke an Opals color so its background hue is darker. While there is nothing wrong with selling synthetic, man-made Opals or treated Opals disclosed as such, it is unethical to pass them off to unsuspecting Clients as natural Opals. 


Are crystal Opals real?


Simply put, yes. That said, there is a segment of the market that deals in synthetic Opals. These types of gemstones were first created by Pierre Gilson in 1974, and continue to be marketed today under names like Monarch Opal, Monet Opal, Galaxy Opal, Exodus Opal and Sterling Opal.  The key criterion for synthetic Opal is that its composition must match that of a natural Opal; only it’s created in a laboratory environment, rather than in nature, by millions of years of the perfect set of environmental conditions.  Some additional terms used to refer to these simulant Opals are Lab Opal and Cultured Opal.  These types of Opals aren’t always easily distinguished from precious opals. 


Although most fine Opal jewelry is crafted using natural Opals, lab created Opal use is also considered acceptable in the jewelry trade, as long as its application is transparent. It is imperative that potential buyers understand what they are investing in.


Unless a dealer indicates otherwise, most crystal Opals are real — that means they are not synthetic or artificial but mined and are the product of millions of years of geological pressure and tectonic activity.


Nonetheless, it is important to comprehend how to tell if the crystal Opal you’re about to invest in is real or artificial.


How can you tell if a crystal Opal is real?


We’ve already addressed the transparency test with light.  But there’s something else to remember about natural Opals. The most striking feature of real Opals is that most natural Opals will display irregularities. They may show a bumpy or curved topographical surface, following the seam of precious Opal in the host rock (as in Boulder Opals).  Some have markings or have been damaged during excavation, while others may exhibit various types of inclusions, such as in this crystal Opal necklace.

Trace Elements Gold Australian Opal Necklace

Often, artificial Opals lack these characteristics -- synthetic stones may look too perfect and geometrically exact.  However, lab mimicry has become increasingly adept, with a multitude of simulant Opals echoing the random veining and irregular color patterns of natural Opals, so it can sometimes be hard to tell - particularly for a novice.  If ever unsure, seeking the expertise of a gemologist or knowledgeable jeweler may prove helpful.


In addition to synthetic Opal, man-made Opal exists in the form of Opal doublets and Opal triplets.  In the case of a doublet, there is a thin layer of real, natural precious Opal, adhered to a backing of potch (non-precious or common Opal).  A triplet has the same composition, with an additional “triplet” layer of clear convex material atop the Opal layer.  In either case, these layers of glued Opal are constructed, rather than naturally formed as a single unit.  An easy way to identify doublets and triplets is in profile; they have clean, linear seams where the layers connect.  They are also fairly easy to distinguish from crystal Opals because their darker potch backgrounds tend to occlude any transparency - a key feature of crystal Opals.


Are Opals a type of crystal?


Crystal Opals or any Opals for that matter are not Crystals — we just use that term, that nomenclature, in order to classify and brand a type of Opal. 


Opals are amorphous silica rocks that are not really minerals but a type of mineraloid. One of the defining aspects of minerals is that they will form crystals; however not all crystals are minerals.  Opals, due to how they are formed, lack this crystal structure despite what you might think when gazing at a spectacular crystal Opal specimen.


Are crystal Opals expensive?


In order to audit the potential monetary value of an Opal there are multiple variables that have to be considered. It’s color, background hue, origin, pattern and dozens of other key factors that ultimately give a value to the stone. It should be noted, nonetheless, that crystal Opals of the highest quality may fetch over $2000 per carat. A crystal Opal may demand more than a gemstone with a similar body type but without that translucent quality to it — the more translucent, the greater the degree of diaphaneity of the crystal Opal, the greater the price it can command. 


Where do crystal Opals come from?

Lightning Ridge, Australia

Considering 95% of Opals are mined in Australia, it comes as no surprise that the vast majority of the world’s crystal Opals hail from the same.  More specifically, they are frequently mined in southern Australia, near the iconic Lightning Ridge area as well as White Cliffs and other parts of New South Wales. These are incredibly popular mining communities and are supervised by the government. 


Here at NIXIN Jewelry, crystal Opals are one of our favorite types of Opals to work with. We invite you to explore our array of Opal pieces and get lost in their kaleidoscope of colors. Continue reading

How to Pick Opal Jewelry

When it comes to Opal jewelry, the truth is that it can be easy to feel overwhelmed — there are just so many options available. The plethora of amazing things a good jeweler can do with Opals is just mind-boggling. From intricate golden laced designs, baroque yet incredibly refined, to simple minimalistic confections that simply wow through their subdued nuance. In this article we’re going to provide Holiday Opal gift guide tips - after all, Black Friday is just around the corner. A great bullet point guide on what to look for when buying Opal jewelry, and how to leverage your budget when investing in this extraordinary gemstone.


Why Buy Opal Jewelry?


Whether as a gift, an engagement ring, or simply because you want to pamper yourself, you can find an exceptional Opal to mark any occasion. What makes them such a remarkable choice? Well, besides their obvious beauty, Opals have a rich and highly affluent history to them. They are inherently, by their very nature, far more unique than gold or silver or other go-to materials used in the design of jewelry. Opals, unlike the aforementioned, aren’t tradable commodities. They can’t be traded on a market for others of their kind. Materials like gold, silver, copper, and other precious metals are fungible by nature. What does that mean? Well, it means that once market metrics - demand and supply - seal in a price, you could trade one amount of that material for another and come out even-steven. You could barter 1 ounce of gold from Australia, for 1 ounce of gold from Mexico and the values equate. They are fungible goods — items that are interchangeable because they are identical to each other for practical purposes.


Opals, on the other hand, are non-fungible. They are unique assets. Each Opal is one-of-a-kind, its personal qualities either add or subtract value. When you buy an Opal you are in fact buying something irreplaceable, something that is exclusive, rare, and exceptionally singular. 


This is the main reason why, up to the beginning of the 20th century, Opals were prized possessions for aristocrats and monarchs and folks like Rockefeller and Edison — the creme de la creme. Anyone could have gold, anyone could buy a silver coin and melt it into a ring, but few people could acquire quality Opals. Up until Australia had its Opal mining explosion, the gemstone was in rare supply and demand for the gem was high. This was the stone Marc Antony showered Cleopatra with; the rare rock Sultans went to war over; the birthstone Shakespeare called “the mother of gemstones.”


What to take into account when buying Opals


Black isn’t always the new black


Black Opals are notoriously the most valuable gemstones of their kind. Their dark background hues allow contrasting colors and patterns to stand out. Nonetheless, there are reasons why some people shy away from black Opals.  Most notably:


  • They can be incredibly expensive. Black Opals are among the most costly and upscale gemstones in existence.
  • Some find their dark body a bit somber and perhaps too mysterious. The truth is that although incredibly lavish and posh, some people simply don’t covet the look of black opals and prefer the lighter body tones of White Opals and Crystal Opals.

Opals possess an organic aesthetic that gives them an edge over other stones. They are more natural, more inherently pure, and their reflective pattern is less preconfigured than with nearly any other gem. As such they are revered gems in the sunlight, treasured adornments for sunny outings, or - as has become the trend - at weddings on the bride’s finger. Would you give your fiancé a black stone as an engagement ring? Or would you be more likely to go with a Crystal Opal ring for her forever piece?

Equilibrium Rose Gold Crystal Opal Ring


The cut of the stone


Diamonds are cut by faceting the pavilion (cone shape) of the stone, giving them their radiant sparkle — Opals are meticulously polished and carefully set. Opals are incredibly delicate gemstones and for the best results, should be handled by expert craftsmen and jewelers experienced in Opal. The slightest error, and suddenly you have a gigantic gash on the Opal’s surface or worse yet, a broken stone. 


It’s important, when investing in a piece of Opal jewelry, to take your time to determine if the gemstone is of the quality you desire. Be sure you understand the difference between a Solid Opal, Opal Doublet and Opal Triplet and that the piece you’re purchasing is what you’re expecting. The vendor should be able and willing to address questions, should you ask.  Remember, while diamonds and other gemstones are typically faceted and calibrated with precise hard-edge tools, Opals are most often left in their natural state, with some shaping to their perimeter and a quality polish job. A natural Opal is likely to have some imperfections in it, be that in its pattern or topography.  Checking the back of the stone, when the setting is left open, is a great way to help assess the authenticity of the gem.  There are synthetics on the market, so it’s prudent to familiarize yourself with differences.  If the stone’s pattern looks too geometrically perfect and regular, it can be an indication of a synthetic Opal.

Choose an Opal that goes with your skin color

Image courtesy of Geologyin

There are some people who only care about the value of the gemstone. They want an Opal that they can boast about, the Rolls Royce of Opals. Those individuals may be best advised to stick with Black Opals from Lightning Ridge, Australia.  Others, however, consider more variables, like how flattering the gemstone will be when worn. That’s why it is important to pick Opal pieces that flatter your skin tone. Consider both the colors you love, as well as the colors that look best on you when shopping for your Opal stone.  If you prefer blue Opals, or yellow, or green Opals, then buy one of those colors — otherwise you might end up with a really expensive heirloom you hardly wear.  You want to love the piece you select!


Vet your Opal Designer or Opal Jeweler 


When investing in Opal jewelry, make sure you purchase from a trusted vendor.  Opals are delicate stones and it’s important that they are designed around with intention, and crafted with the utmost care.  An experienced designer understands which stones can be most safely used in which types of settings...and can execute upon them beautifully.  If you’ve never worked with them before, try reading their reviews, explore their social media or reach out to them with a question over email to see how they reply.  Feeling comfortable is an important first step in any purchase.


Other tips?


Remember that:

  • Opals need extra care 
  • Opal values will vary by type
  • Take into account the pattern and brilliance of the stone 

If you’re interested in learning how Opals are valued, and finding a bit more info on how to pick a gemstone, click the following link. 


Nevertheless, what really matters is to select an Opal that you fall head over heels for. Whether you seek a perfect gem, or an Opal decorated with potch and inclusions, one that complements your skin tone or carries all your favorite colors, finding a stone that speaks to you - that’s what truly matters. 

At NIXIN Jewelry, we believe in finding beauty in the unexpected. Come find your one of a kind. 



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Australian Opals; From Dinosaurs To The Crown

Opals, unlike other gemstones, are rife with an intangible quality — something you can’t quite put your finger on. Full of mystery, bubbling with kaleidoscopic colors, brimming with their own type of personality. They are each unique, each one-of-a-kind, each spins its own tale. Each Opal has something to convey; its own inimitable story, distinct from the stories of every other Opal. And so much of that awe is due to where they come from. In today’s article, we’re going to slip back in time to the era of dinosaurs. Then we’ll leap forward to frontier towns and crime-infested mining communities. We’ll take a detour into the world of British royalty, and finally land in the present. This time warp will weave together a story of geology, human behavior, and fantastic circumstance that results in the rainbow hued gemstone we know as Opal. Today, we’re going to talk about Opals in Australia and why their place of origin is such a pivotal factor in their identity.


Opals of Australia — The Era of the Dinosaurs


Most Opals, about 95% of them, come from Australia. Not only that, but the most valued and most sought after Opals, Black Opals, are mined on that continent. There’s a reason why Australia has had such good fortune cornering the market when it comes to Opals. Why year in year out some of the most valued and legendary pieces, like the priceless Black Prince, have come from this region. 


Australia, long before it was established as a penal colony, long before there were aborigines, and before it was even a continent, was an inland sea. This huge plain of land was regularly engulfed by the surf. 


Between 146-65 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period, Australia was a region full of minerals, a sea bustling with corals, (inspiring this Australian Pipe Opal Necklace held in place by a golden coral reef)

Great Barrier Reef Opal Necklace 

and home to magnificent prehistoric animals. It was a place where megalodons dwelled. During this period, the water ebbed and flowed. For 100s of years, what would eventually be called Australia was essentially a swimming pool to gigantic predators. But after some time, those marine life sustaining pools would dry out with evolution favoring land living creatures - most notably, the formidable dinosaurs. This was the circle of life. 


Yet more transformation was yet to come, and it commenced as a series of geological changes began to affect the area. Volcanos, tectonic plate movements, climate change, etc. The waters that had gradually receded, and this time stayed out of inland Australia, had left in their place huge deposits of rich marine soil — a “soup” of sorts, full of silica, fossils, and other valuable resources, that became the main nutrients of Opals. All the “soup” began to seep into the land, through voids, cracks, and tiny fissures. Like a sponge, the continent soaked it all in. After  5 million years of the perfect merger of circumstances, Australia was left with a 1cm thick deposit of Opal. The land pressure cooked that river of Opal stew and molded it into the gemstone we mine today. 

 

What’s so extraordinary about these gemstones, and why Opals are mostly found in Australia, is that (in a way unlike other stones) their quality is siphoned from and given to them by that fossil-rich soil — and by those dead dinos.


Australia Opals — Mining towns


Up until the late 19th century, Opals were incredibly hard to come by. So hard that they were even more precious than gold, silver, and rubies. Monarchs, Sultans, and Emperors would fight wars over them. Mistresses and princesses would cheat on their husbands, forsake their kingdoms and turn their backs on Rome for Opals. The multi-colored gems were a hot commodity. Shakespeare called them the “mother of gemstones” and there was a reason for it - Opals really were the crowning jewel of, well, any crown. 


If you desired an Opal, you had to go where few men dared. Out into the wilderness, out of the arms of Rome, of the empire, and breach the savage land. It took fortitude. 


That all changed in the 1840s. A German geologist was doing a walkabout near the small town of Angaston, Australia. His name was Johannes Menge, and he was studying Australia’s bizarre formations and strange geographic geometries. Johannes inadvertently stumbled upon a treasure trove - a small collective of Opals. Nonetheless, he wasn’t much for fanfare and he wasn’t driven by money. So he shared his discovery with a few of his friends and then left the area alone. His friends subsequently set up a small mining community and started transporting Opals out of the region, aiming to keep their operation quiet to mitigate competition. Well, like Ben Franklin said: “three may keep a secret, only if two of them are dead.”

Johannes Menge

 

In less than 20 years, miners had stripped the land dry. The government initially thought it was a fluke deposit, but the miners, hungry for a new revenue stream, started to dig all over Australia. As the years passed, other deposits, like Lightning Ridge, were uncovered. Prospectors began to create shantytowns; sizable hamlets that formed overnight, full of bars, ruffians, criminals, prostitutes, outspoken preachers, etc. The area, for years, was basically steamrolled by this “gold rush” — and what’s even more amazing, each time prospectors would suck the land dry, some new deposit would appear a little ways off. Turns out Australia was an Opal gold mine, so to speak. The government finally interceded, in the early 1900s and began to oversee the operation.


The Crown and Australian Opal


On January 1st, 1901, Australia became a nation. It was now just partly a British Colony. It became an integral member of the Federation of Colonies of the pacific. This meant that Australia was a nation with constitutional ties to the United Kingdom, but one that now allowed its previously six individual colonies to merge into one united nation.

Great Barrier Reef Gold Opal Necklace

It can hardly be a coincidence, that for years, the crown, due in part to their relationship with Australia, became fascinated with Opals. Opals were the rage in London due to this torrid love affair. This courtship generated a feedback loop; Europeans wanted more Opal, because their monarchs were wearing them, and Australian miners had to work to meet the demand for the precious stone. 


Suddenly, Opals were jet-setting items


Opals in Australia today


What makes Opals in Australia, in the present day, such hot-ticket items?  Well, certainly their exceptional range of colors and patterns.  But their beauty aside, there is the fact that the government oversees every aspect of mining and production. So when you invest in a piece of Australian Opal jewelry, you can feel confident in the conflict-free origins and mining of the stone.  And when you work with an experienced Opal jeweler, they understand how to assess these incredible stones and determine the right type of setting to best display their magic. 


Here at NIXIN Jewelry, we strive to source some of the most unusually breathtaking Opals of Australia … and then we craft our pieces around each unique stone.  Come find your one of a kind.



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Black Opals --- How are they formed, how are they valued, what makes them so great?

What makes black Opals so valuable, and by consequence so expensive? What about them causes prices to skyrocket. In this article, we’re going to address a couple of key questions regarding the price of black opals; primarily why black Opals cost so much and how they are valued in the market, so you as a consumer know what to keep in mind when shopping for black Opal jewelry. Let's answer the question, why are the most famous Opals in history Black Opals?


How is Opal formed

Before we can understand why black Opals are so valuable and what makes them so unique, we first have to sink our teeth into how this distinct gemstone is formed from a purely geological perspective. 

Opals, from their inception, are slowly nurtured in mother nature’s womb. The formation of Opals requires a unique series of specific geological, biological, and climatic phenomena to occur in concurrence. Different forces of nature not only interact but concede and merge together enabling  the formation of the elusive gemstone. This is why it’s only found in certain regions of the world, and also why more than 95% of it is mined in certain parts of Australia. 

the Black Prince Opal

The Black Prince, one of the most famous Black Opals in existence.

The various phenomena that contribute to the creation of Opals extend all the way back to the time of the T-Rex, to the Cretaceous period. These are the very same phenomena that would later coincide and mesh together to give black Opals their distinctive hue. 

Australia, between 145-65 million years ago, wasn’t a dry continent but an inland sea full of corals, minerals, and soon-to-be fossils. Towards the end of the Cretaceous period, the water ebbed and flowed. The gradual recession and refilling over millions of years resulted in deposits of rich marine sands, full of silica, fossils, and other nutrients ideal for Opal formation. Voids, cracks, and fissures in the ground started to sponge up this silica-rich solution. All of that “soup” began to flow down into the soil. Experts believe it took this river, with silica, water, and decomposed biological material, up to 5 million years to form a 1 cm thick deposit of Opal. 

The internal structure of Opal enables its unique diffraction of light. That same diffraction is what produces all the colors it’s known for exhibiting like purple, red, yellow, blue, magenta, rose, pink, green, especially when these colors reflect upon the ever-elusive black Opal.


Black Opals the Mother of All Gemstones


In 1601, William Shakespeare, in one of his lesser-known plays - Twelfth Night - called Opals a “miracle” and on that same script he coined the phrase “the mother of all gemstones. He was referring not only to Opals in general, but more specifically to black Opal. But what makes black Opals so valuable, so desirable to consumers, and such prized possessions for fine jewelers? 

This one was certainly hard for us to part with… Papilio Blumei Black Opal Ring.


Black Opals, more than other types of Opals, are quite rare. More specifically, true gem quality black Opals are exceptionally rare. Natural black Opals are only formed in one place on the planet, Australia. Not only that, most are found on one solitary spot on that continent, the legendary Lightning Ridge mining town. Lightning Ridge is a small town with approximately 2000 people living and working in it. It is a town whose primary industry is Opal mining. Its infrastructure, the market, the commerce, the whole town model are crafted around this industry. 

Lightning Ridge is the world’s predominant producer of black Opals. Not only that, but it mines these gemstones ethically and responsibly, following key governmental rules and regulations. Why is this important? Because there are a finite number of Opals left. It would take eons, not to mention the right combination of circumstances, for a new Opal deposit to form - a set of impervious obstacles to overcome within our lifetime. So, in other words, once we’ve mined what’s left of these gemstones, they are most likely gone forever. 

Black Opals can only be found in Australia. This is due to the geological make-up of the material. Australia’s - let's call it “primordial Opal soup” is made up of a unique set of ingredients that other places like Mexico, Brazil, and Ethiopia lack. Together, these other countries make up 5% of global Opal mining, and they didn’t have Australia’s wild menagerie of prehistoric beasts, nor did they share  the land’s same climate and magma pressure which contributed to black Opal's distinctive color. 

Lightning Ridge, Australia.


How do Black Opals get their color?

 

Black Opals aren't really black — they have a natural backdrop to them called “potch” or common opal, that gives them their dark body color. The color bar atop the potch generally appears more vibrant, the darker the potch background it sits upon. Opal's main ingredient is silica, which is also the key component in glass, that’s why it reflects light so successfully. Opals, black, in particular, get their colors from silica, or more to the point, from the way water evaporates and leaves behind these silica deposits. These deposits are spherical and they stack up - one on top of the other. The size of the spheres and the regularity of their arrangement determines the colors and patterns within the resulting gem. This stacking formation creates tiny little gaps between the spheres that allow light to pass through them and split into a rainbow of patterns. 

Most other gemstones, diamonds, for example, get their color from the elements present during their formation. A diamond will turn blue only if Boron is present during its creation. In the case of black Opal, it gets its base hue from the decomposed matter found in the soil during its formation, and it gets its rainbow patterns from the evaporation of water and the leftover silica.


How Are Black Opals Graded?

 

Black Opals can be valued by a qualified appraiser who considers a multitude of  variables, including:

  • The Body Tone: the background color of the stone.
  • The Play of Color: the range of color exhibited by the stone.. 
  • The Brilliance: how bright and clear colors appear when the gem is faced up.
  • The Patterns: the constant repeating of colors throughout the entire stone. 

Black Opals, due to their color, can eventuate all these elements. They contrast differently and more vibrantly the darker their dark body tone. If you’re interested in getting a more in-depth education on how Opals are valued in the market, follow this link.



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How are Opals Valued

Opal, due to its unique characteristics, is by far one of the hardest gemstones to value. It’s full of subjective variables and a range of properties that have to be classified. Amongst them, characteristics like providence, color, pattern, brightness, size, etc. In comparison, diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, have a relatively simple classification system — Opal doesn’t. In this article, we’re going to give a step-by-step walk-through on factors that contribute to the price of Opal. Those critical points that help appraisers determine the final value of Opal. 


Factors that determine the value of Opal — How to appraise Opal


Color


The hue of the gemstone, its color, is the first thing an experienced appraiser will note. Red is by far one of the most sought out colors, due to how rare it is. Red is followed by orange, green, blue, and purple. Nonetheless, it's important to point out that Opal is never a single color but a mix. An appraiser's job is to determine which is the dominant color, followed by secondary and tertiary hues. 


Direction of the Color


Opals are gemstones that change in appearance. Their beauty is largely determined by the angle at which the gemstone is viewed. The direction of the color affects the overall price of the Opal. The more elastic and versatile the Opal is — the more directions the spark and brilliance flow to — the more valuable it will be.  This quality is also known as “directionality.”


For example, Opals with a fierce brilliance from all directions make great options for ring stones. Meanwhile, Opals that face one direction are more often reserved for pendants. 


A jeweler experienced with Opal will always set the Opal in such a way that it displays as much fire as possible. 


Pattern


Opals have a natural pattern to them — the more bizarre, rare, or unique the pattern the more valuable it will be. For example, the Harlequin Pattern is by far  the rarest and most sought-after configuration when it comes to Opal pattern. It is a mosaic of contracting shapes, often angular or specifically diamond shaped, that create a repeating pattern. It is a unique pattern mostly found in Opals from Australia, particularly Black Opals in the Lighting Ridge area. Most miners, if they are lucky, only find one true Harlequin Opal in their lifetimes. 


Other patterns include Mackerel, Broad Flash, Floral, Pinfire, Block, Chinese Writing , and Ethiopian Opal’s Honeycomb pattern. 


Body Tone


Body tone is different from color. It is one of the most important factors when it comes to classifying and ultimately placing a value on particular gemstone. Body tone is the underlying - background - color of the Opal. To assess the body tone of a stone, you want to look at the front of the Opal, but ignore the bright flashes of color upon it - you are purely looking at the backdrop from which the bright colors burst forth. 


The current body tone guide was created and endorsed by the Opal Association of Australia. They are the leading authority because 95% of Opals mined in the world come from that continent. Opals are generally divided into 9 body tone sub-types — N1 to N9.


N1 is by far the most valuable, it's also the darkest. These are generally referred to as black opals (N1 to N4). Anything that falls in the middle of that body tone guide - N5 to N6 - is called semi-black or dark opal. Finally, at the end of the spectrum, N7 to N9, we find crystal opals and white opals. 


Brightness


Another benchmark produced by the Opal Association of Australia is the brightness guide. Along with body tone, and color, it is important to highlight the gemstone's brightness rating — B1 is by far the most vivid while B7 is the dullest. 


Appraisers classify an Opal’s brilliance in ranges that go from brilliant, bright, to subdued, or dull. The brighter the Opal, the more expensive it is. 


Shape


The shape of an Opal can have a significant impact on its value.  Traditionally, oval Opals have been more desirable than freeform shapes — except in organically inspired designs where the opposite holds true. The shape of an Opal can determine how flexible it is to design around and how easy it will be for a jeweler to set it and really make it shine. Oval opals can be more versatile when it comes to the direction of light, and their symmetry makes them a logical choice for  a range of applications - particularly for Clients with a more classical preference. However, more unusual geometric shapes and freeform Opals have become increasingly popular as Opal demand continues to surge. Here at NIXIN Jewelry, we seek Opals unlike any others, whether oval or asymmetrical, and dream up designs inspired by the stones we find. The Waning Moon Necklace, is an example of such - it incorporates a Lightning Ridge Crystal Opal we sourced, in an irregular cut, and we allowed the stone to direct the design. 

 

Waning Moon Diamond and Gold Opal Necklace


Origin


95% of Opals come from Australia, and they have achieved a worldwide reputation for having some of the most exquisite stones in existence. Australia’s mining practices, as well as its native geological formations, make these stones the most expensive Opals on  the market. That’s not to say that Opals from Ethiopia, Mexico, and Brazil aren’t precious, just that Australia is the dominant market presence.

 

Image from Abc.net.au -- Opal miners in Australia 

Natural Vs Treated


One of the main reasons why Australia has such a great reputation for its Opal and its prized gemstones is because of its mining practices. Over the years, other places, like Ethiopia have faced more controversy  when it comes to their Opals. Why? They often treat them. 


What does that mean, to treat an Opal? It means that Opal has been smoked or blanketed with chemicals (sometimes even sugar) to change its body tone so it's darker or to intensify its play of color. Normally, when this happens, the seller has to state that the Opal was treated — that isn’t always the case. 


Inclusions 


Opals sometimes form themselves around vegetation or sand or other organic matter which can cause patterns of ghost imprints within them. While this technically decreases the value of the Opal, to those who appreciate an organic aesthetic, these included Opals are often preferred.  The inclusions add an element of interest and character to the stone and can contribute to the one of a kind nature of Opal art.


Faults


Different types of faults or flaws in an Opal can either detract from the value of a gemstone or render it worthless. What types of faults should you be most on the lookout for?


  • External cracks (most significant if in a ring)
  • Crazing (a network of small cracks across the stone)
  • Windows (sections devoid of color)
  • Potch lines or webbing (streaks across the surface of non-colorful Opal) 

While the last two above may detract from the stone’s overall value, they don’t create a structural problem. So for those who lean into these visual nuances, and appreciate the unique pictures they paint within the stone, they don’t have to be Opal deterrents.  It's simply important to understand the qualities of stone you are looking at.

 

Why do you need to know how Opals are valued

Ultimately, unless you’re planning to sell the Opal or Opal Jewelry you are purchasing, you don’t need to identify the exact value of an Opal stone - in fact, it can be near impossible.  That said, it’s a good idea to understand the basics around what you are buying, and reach out to the seller with any questions you may have. What’s most important is that you love what you are getting; that it makes you feel special every time you put it on.  For some, that may mean an oval shaped Harlequin Black Opal Ring; for others, that may mean a freeform Boulder Opal Picture Stone.  Here at NIXIN Jewelry, we appreciate the full range of aesthetics Opal has to offer, from gem quality to imperfectly perfect - we find beauty in each unique stone. We invite you to explore our collection and come find your one of a kind.



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Opal Engagement Rings

Weddings are full of traditions, that’s  part of the celebratory fun. They often draw on customs borrowed from yesteryear that, by today’s standards, make little sense. Picking out something blue. Throwing the bouquet. Procuring something borrowed. The first dance. And, the one unforgettable custom that kicks off the whole affair, the thing so many brides dream of  — The engagement ring. The classic proverbial spark that lights that bonfire. Engagement rings are magnificent, incredible symbols used to represent a bond between two people. In today’s age, gold and diamonds are no longer the exclusive standard and Opal is gaining ground. If you haven’t considered an Opal engagement ring for that special someone, let us give you an introduction to their beauty, allure, appeal, and untraditional mystique. 


Opal Engagement Rings — What is Opal?


Opal is an incredibly unique and beautiful gemstone that is known not only for its display of flashing colors but also for its deep history. A history full of wonder and intrigue and more than 4000 years of tales. Opals are most abundantly mined in Australia, and they are formed over millions of years throughout the dry periods after seasonal rains. Opal is the October birthstone, and this amorphous silica - no two Opals are the same - falls into two broad classes: precious Opal and common Opal.

Newlywed couple Opal engagement ring

Precious Opal is what is typically used in fine jewelry, thus most Opal engagement rings are made out of this class. Why? Precious Opal, unlike its counterpart, displays the gemstone's characteristic play-of-color, otherwise known as iridescence. It is a chromatic optical effect that results in brilliant flashes of colored light from diffraction - or the way the light bounces off the various spheres within the gemstone’s body and the size of the spaces between them.  


Opals have been used in fine jewelry for ages. They have a deep meaning and for a period in history were even more popular in engagement rings than diamonds. With its broad appeal and unreal ability to reflect every color of the rainbow in one single stone, Opal was bestowed the title “The Queen of Gems.” They are rife with history and bursting with supernatural lore. In the middle ages Opals were believed to come from the stars and folks were certain that they had the power to make the wearer invisible — the idea of Tolkien’s ring, from The Hobbit and other tales, and it's awesome power, was inspired by Opal. 


Opal rose into fashion in antiquity, and amongst its many admirers we find none other than Cleopatra. Other famous personalities that have become spellbound by Opal? We have Queen Victoria, Empress Josephine, Queen Elizabeth, Catherine the Great, and the list goes on.... 


Why invest in an Opal Engagement Ring


Opal engagement rings are a beautiful option for untraditional, non-diamond-seeking brides. They are truly unique and one of a kind as no two Opals are exactly the same. Opals display a different, more complex type of flash for the eye than a diamond. Something more natural, far more complicated, and far more sensuous. Opals allow for the unexpected, leaving room to see something new and different from each angle and in every type of light. It is a one-of-a-kind gemstone; a befitting reflection of your relationship with your one and only.  

Opal engagement ring couple in Paris

Another great benefit with Opal engagement rings is that they are not only breathtaking, but they are also conflict-free. In an age where there is significant concern about gemstones sourced from regions of strife, this concern is alleviated when considering an Opal as an alternative engagement ring to some of the more controversial options available.  


And finally, Opal rings are generally more budget-friendly than the traditional diamond model. The real estate you can acquire in a gorgeous Opal can vastly outweigh the diamond size obtainable with the same budget. They are still jaw-dropping marvelous center stones while also being more affordable. And with such a wide range of Opal types available, there is an Opal for every palate and price point.


Opal engagement rings carry a fascinating historical significance, irresistible charm, and a color story diamonds just can’t compete with. 


What To Look For In An Opal Engagement Ring

How much does an Opal Engagement ring cost?


Opals, like diamonds, come in a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes. An Opal ring’s value will no doubt find itself tied to these characteristics as well as the ingenuity of design and the setting — the precious metal on which it is inlaid into. White Opal is a common color, frequently used in engagement rings. Black Opals, meanwhile, due to their rarity, are generally the most expensive, and are less often used in engagement rings. Here at NIXIN Jewelry, one of our favorite Opal engagement rings we’ve created includes a Lightning Ridge Dark Crystal Opal with a rolling blue flash. We then paired it with sparkling blue sapphires and set it into a custom formed 18k gold mounting to create the Midnight Phantom Ring.  

Midnight Phantom Cobalt Blue Opal Gold Ring

Midnight Phantom Cobalt Blue Opal Gold Ring


What Type of Opal is it?


Each Opal type has a unique look and it's important to select one that best complements and accentuates the skin tone of your bride. Crystal Opal looks translucent and has an ephemeral quality to it. White Opal has a rich milky body tone and isn’t always as fiery as other types. It’s also worth investigating options like Black Opal and Boulder Opal to see if these are better suited to the bride.


Where does the Opal come from?


95% of all Opals are mined in Australia. It’s important to know what continent or country your Opal comes from to better understand the performance history of that Opal type and manage expectations. For example, black Opals from Lightning Ridge, Australia, are considered the “Rolls Royce” of Opal and are incredibly rare and usually expensive. Opals from the Queensland field have a stunning color and can be a bit heavier due to their natural ironstone backing — which can also make them stronger. 


It’s also important to determine the quality of the Opal. Judge its play of color, its body tone, its patterns, its thickness, its setting, and natural faults. For example, natural inclusions are normal and can give the gemstone character, but cracks from mining, or as a result from setting are elements to avoid when shopping for an Opal engagement ring. A trustworthy jeweler will guide you appropriately, and should ask you questions about your lifestyle and how you use your hands in your daily routine. They should feel just as comfortable telling you what not to purchase, based on your feedback, as they should trying to sell you the perfect Opal ring as your forever piece.


Ask how to take care of your Opal engagement ring?


Unlike diamonds, Opals are delicate gemstones. To care for them properly, you want to avoid sudden changes in temperature, chemical exposures and rigorous activity while wearing them. For simple at home cleaning, you can use a mild detergent and lukewarm water, and gently clean them with a soft microfiber cloth. Solid Opals can be submerged in water, however prolonged exposure to water can permanently damage Opal Doublets or Triplets. Should you take your Opal jewelry to a jeweler for professional cleaning, be sure they know how to properly handle Opals, and will not be using an ultrasonic cleaner which can crack the gemstone. If ever stored away, be sure to protect your Opal jewelry from damage by placing it in a temporary soft cloth or plastic bag, out of harm’s way. With proper care, Opal rings and other Opal jewelry can last a lifetime


We’d love to send the piece of a lifetime your way - come explore our extraordinary selection of one of a kind Opal magic



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The history of Opal Mining --- Where Opals come from

Let’s talk about Opals and where they are mined. Opals have a rich and fascinating history, one that dates back to Roman times, full of mind-blowing tales. A history mired in greed, adventure, hijinks, and Indiana Jones-like escapades. During a period, in our collective chronology, Opals were the most desired of all gemstones . Sure, folks loved silver and gold, but  every other stone was just a party-favor — Opal was the top-tier gem; it was THE gemstone. To what degree? Wars were fought for Opals, empires sold for the stone, and economies built around its splendor. In this article, we’re going to move fluidly through  time as we  talk about Opal mining and  modern sources of Opals around the world. 

Where are Opals mined?

95% of Opals are mined in Australia in various legendary pits, sometimes with colorful stories to accompany their extraction. The rest, that 5%, is found in places like Ethiopia, Mexico, Brazil, Nevada, and other smaller locations, even Mars. It’s important to note that Australia has the best regulated and documented Opal mining operation in the world. One with the right infrastructure and the right census. So, that 95% is an approximate amount. Why? Many other places have inconsistent book-keeping so it’s near impossible to truly get a proper account. 

 Australia and Opal mining

 Most modern historians and geologists agree Australia’s boom in Opals began in 1849. The first real treasure trove of that precious gemstone was uncovered by German geologist Johannes Menge near the small town of Angaston. The man wasn’t much for fanfare and only a select few knew of its existence. It wasn’t until 1869 that Opal really hit the big leagues in Australia and the industry exploded. 

Johannes Menge

The first official Opal discovery, the one that hit the press and everyone’s imagination, occurred on that date near Listowel Downs. For a couple of years, the area was hit by hundreds of miners. They stripped it dry. During that time, most Australians believed that it was a fluke. A one-off mining opportunity and that there was no more of the precious gemstone on the continent.

Then, out of the ether, dozens of other mines started to pop up. From Queensland to New South Wales, people seemed to be stumbling into ditches and coming up, like the proverbial groundhog, with an Opal tight in their fist. Stories of huge mines started to emerge and small towns, full of prospectors, sprung overnight in faraway places. 

Mining Town In White Cliff

For years, despite their great findings, prospectors were just making ends meet - not much, but enough to survive. Why? Europeans and American buyers were extremely wary of buying Opal. A string of counterfeit rings had been flooding the market with fakes that looked authentic but lacked the richness of color that a real gem quality Opal possessed. This meant that the market, and Opal as a commodity, was in a slump. So, prospectors would sell the gemstones just to keep the lights on. 

One chemical breakthrough changed the paradigm and in a snap, the commercial value of Opal skyrocketed in the first years of the 20th century. Science had uncovered a way to actually test the purity of the gemstone. And, like that, a hundred ships sailed to Australia. From London to America, wealthy corporations joined forces to try to seize the Opal trade. Those shanty Opal towns, like the one in Lightning Ridge, blossomed. Opal fever hit Australia hard. 

Like in the States, during the Gold Rush, for a couple of years whole towns would spring up around a mine. Prospecting became a way of life. The rapid influx of prospectors meant an economic boom in certain places that were, less than 10 years prior, nothing more than dirt and sand. 

Today, Australian Opal still takes the world by storm. Most gemstones used in Opal rings come from that area.  It produces 95% of the world’s commercial supply, much of which comes from the 70 or so Opal fields found around Coober Pedy --- the Opal capital of the world.  A great number of crystal opals, like the one used in this crystal opal ring, are derived from these mines. 

 Crystal Silhouette Rose Gold Opal Engagement Ring

This is that place that unleashed onto the market the world’s largest and most valuable gemstone in existence, “Olympic Australis.” Though most of Australia’s black opal comes from Lightning Ridge, Coober Pedy has also been known to produce  some magnificent specimens of black opal, the rarest of its kind. 

Opal and Ethiopia 

 Reports of Opal deposits in Northern African history can be dated to 4000 BC when the gemstone was used as a carving tool by the indigenous population - an interesting use of the stone, considering the relatively soft nature of the material.Nonetheless, due to Africa’s unstable political and social atmosphere, mining in the region didn’t begin in earnest until the late 20th century. The first published report of the gem hit the Ethiopian press in 1994 with the discovery of a large deposit in the Menz Gishe District, North Shewa Province. 

Opal deposits in Ethiopia

Opal from this region is becoming more widely available in the market  and mostly comes from one of the only government-supervised mines in the Wollo Province — Opal from Ethiopia, due to where it's uncovered, is known worldwide as “Welo” Opal.  While beautiful, and less expensive than its Australian counterpart, it is both newer to market and less stable, given its hydrophane structure, and has been known to sometimes permanently alter its appearance when exposed to different variables.

Mexico and Opal mining 

Opal occurs naturally in significant quantities in the central Mexican region — mostly in the state of Queretaro. During a period there were close to 100 mines in the area but major accidents, natural and manmade, made it extremely hard to find and exploit deposits.

Today, there are only a few small opal mines in Mexico. 

Other locations

Other regions around the world are also awaiting exploration  with undiscovered Opals. That even includes the US. Mining where Nevada’s Virgin Valley has some geologists and precious gemstone traders buzzing about potential finds. 

There’s nothing like uncovering an unexpected One of a Kind Australian Opal.  Come discover what NIXIN Jewelry has in store for you. Continue reading

Famous Opals --- A Who's Who Of That Rich Gemstone's History

Opals have been around for literally millions of years. As one of the most sought-after gemstones in antiquity - gold and silver had nothing on this  chromatic wonder - opals have acquired a long varied chronology. One full of intrigue, mystery, death-defying acts of bravery, and Indiana Jones-like thrill-seekers. In this article, we’re going to give you a look at some of the most famous opals in existence. The type of gemstones that built empires, that cost a fortune and had all manner of skulduggery acts attached to their rap-sheet. So sit back and enjoy some of the most famous opals in history and myths.

The Aurora Australis

Famous Opals Image by Altmanncherny.com.au

This gemstone was unearthed by opal legend and master miner Charlie Dunstan in the area of Lightning Ridge, Australia in 1939. At this time, in the first half of the 20th-century, demands for large opals were at an all-time high. The stone was polished by Altman and Cherney after they bought it from the adventurous Dunstan. This blue, green, and red stone, at 180 carats, is currently on display in the pair’s showroom in Sydney and is valued at over $1 million.

The Fire Queen

Another of fast Charlie’s discoveries, the Fire Queen or the Dunstan’s Stone, was also mined at Lightning Ridge. The name comes because the gemstone looks, according to the newspapers of those days,  like a “living ball of fire.” Legend has it that poor Charlie was swindled. Two tales stand regarding how he lost the stone. One, states that he sold it for less than 100 pounds — the man had an outstanding debt with some rather nefarious lowlife. The second states that he actually lost it in a bar, either in a poker match or paying an outstanding tab. The 900-carat heavyweight was eventually sold by none other than J.D. Rockefeller in 1949 for the sum of 75,000 pounds. As a postscript, after Charlie ‘lost” two other big stones - drunk out of his mind - the man was found dead in his hut from a gunshot wound to the head. The coroner declared it a suicide, but speculation and gossip say otherwise. 

The Black Prince

Image by Altmanncherny.com.au

Originally called the Harlequin Prince, the 181 carat stone was uncovered in 1915 at the Phone Line by Urwin and Brown in Australia. The Black Prince was later sold to a wealthy American serviceman that was doing his duty in the land from down under during that period. What makes this stone so unique , in addition to its actual size,  it’s reported record breaking price tag (sold as one in a parcel of four) for black opal at that time.  

Halley’s Comet

Image by miningeology.blogspot.com

Recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest uncut opal in existence, this gigantic stone was discovered by a pair of shifty opal miners doing some off-the-books prospecting in someone else’s claim. It was uncovered in a region at Lightning Ridge, Australia, by a mining group - and we’re not kidding here - called officially “The Lunatic Hill Syndicate.” Why is it called Halley’s comet? Because it was dug out just as that monster raced across the Australian skies. 

Pride Of Australia

Image by resources.nsw.gov.au

A little back history, Australia is where 95% of opals are uncovered — it’s our planet’s mine for that stuff. So, when an opal is called “the Pride of Australia” it has large shoes to fill. The Pride, also known as the “Red Emperor” was uncovered in 1915 by Tom Urwin and Snowy Brown at Phone Line. The stone is shaped like the Australian continent and has toured at least 5 World Flies. In all of these events, it has been promoted as: “the greatest opal of Australia, and therefore the greatest opal of the world.”

The Empress Of Australia

Back in Australia during the opal rush of the early 20th century, pubs and shantytowns - full of prospectors - seemed to sprout overnight. It was what you would expect of a place brimming with ambitious opportunistic predators with nothing to lose and money springing from the ground in the form of gemstones. The Empress of Australia was mined in 1915 right where the Pride of Australia was unearthed. It was a red masterpiece. No one really knows its backstory, but once the miners got off the claim and went into town for a refreshing cold one, the stone started slipping hands. There was a barroom fight and the Empress hit the floor shattering into two pieces. Today, one piece is a pendant while the second is mounted on a gleaming necklet.

The Flame Queen

Image by Wikimedia.

Mined in Bald Hill, Australia, the Flame Queen has  an impressive story. The 263.18 carat stone was uncovered by three partners, Jack Phillips, Walter Bradley, and “Irish” Joe Hegarty. They simply found a claim that had been left when the owner went off to fight in WWI. The area was brimming with brigands and an incredibly risky place to live. Full of hungry and desperate folks. The three men, broke and exhausted from working the mine, sold the Flame Queen for 93 pounds. They counted themselves lucky. Then word got around of the gem’s true price.  Given its incredibly rare appearance - a domed red-gold center surrounded by a blue-green ellipses (think fried egg shape) - it is extraordinarily valuable and considered by some to be the most famous of all opals.

The Hope Opal

One of the most obscure and bizarre stones in existence, the Hope Opal is one of the most famous, non-Australian stones in the world. The 35-carat transparent blue gem, if viewed from one angle, features a carved human face surrounded by sun rays. That feature is where its second name comes from “Aztec Sun God Opal.” It is assumed to be a Mexican opal, first discovered in 1839, but rumors of its existence can be traced back to the 17th century. 

Enchanted Crystal Opal and Diamond Necklace from NIXIN

At NIXIN Jewelry, we delight in the discovery of extraordinary opals and communicating their stories through the pieces we create.  Come find your one of a kind. Continue reading

Interesting facts about opals --- Fun, weird, tidbits.

Opal is one of the most precious and absolutely breathtaking gemstones in the world. It’s full of mystique, allure, and heart-stumping beauty. Not only that, but it’s also one of the most interesting and history-rich stones on the market — in the present and the past. Join us as we slip into professor mode and give you some of the most interesting facts about opal. Facts, tidbits, and quiz night answers you didn’t know. Get ready for your Jeopardy cheat sheet on opal.

Interesting facts about opal

Hydrated Amorphous Silica

From 3 to 20% of opal’s content is water. It is an extremely water-rich gemstone that due to this mixture of liquid and rock obtains its unique and very divergent colors. 

It’s mostly found in fissures

Most opal deposits are uncovered in relatively low-temperature fissures in almost all kinds of rocks among them are sandstone and ironstone.  It’s within these rock types, respectively, where magnificent pipe opals and boulder opals, like the boulder opal in the Regalia Ring, form over millions of years.

There are 3 types of opals sold on the market

  • Precious opal, which displays a unique iridescence. This is a flash of color or spectrum burst of colors similar to a rainbow that occurs when a fixed source of light strikes certain minerals. 
  • The second type of opal is called common opal —- these are gemstones with have a fixed hazy-milky-turbid sheen and typically lack bold color play. 
  • Synthetic opal, first created by Pierre Gilson in 1974, this type of opal is created in labs and sold commercially. The lab-created opals and are mostly used for scientific developments, the study of photonics, and in the cosmetic industry. 

Cleopatra’s favorite

Back in the days of the great Empire, opals were more valuable than gold. The gemstone was Cleopatra’s favorite and rumor has it that Marc Antony would constantly shower her with them — having them brought from the Roman frontier in Slovakia.

From deep space

Many early opal traders believed that the gemstone came from space and was lined with cosmic heavenly properties. Oddly enough that idea brings us to the next big-ticket item when it comes to opals.

Opals on Mars

A special kind of opal can be found on Mars' surface. What makes this such an interesting find? Aside from the fact that it’s a space rock, an actual space rock, this particular kind of opal can help in finding life outside of our planet.

Alien opal

The meteorite Nakhala, held in the Natural History Museum of London, could hold the record of ancient Martian life. The known traces of fire opal detected within the meteorite were investigated by a research team from the University of Glasgow and what they discovered was a game-changer. These opals, like the same of their kind, found on Earth, form around hydrothermal vents on the seafloor. They have, due to how they are geologically constructed, the ability to trap microbes. This means that the best chance of proving, right now, that Mars was once inhabited by life could be found in the red planet’s opal depository. 

Australia is the main mining source

Australia holds a huge monopoly on the opal trade. More than 95% of the world's supply comes from the land down under. The rest is split between Brazil, Mexico, Ethiopia, and boutique miners in the western parts of the USA. 

Opal and Chakras

Due to their various color and nature, opals are used in various tantric and new-age practices. Amongst those to stimulate and help Chakra points. 

Opals are fragile

The Mohs scale ranks gemstones according to their toughness, their hardness density. Opals are generally brittle and require more caution when handled according to this scale.

October is opal’s month

Opals is the official birthstone of October. Each month has a birthstone related to it, and in ancient times it was a tradition to give people born in this month that stone. Most believe that opal became the official stone of October during the Roman empire, more precisely during Octavius' reign. 

The etymology of opal

The word opal comes from the Latin word “opulus” which is loosely translated as "precious stone."

Wood and opal

Did you know that petrified wood has the same makeup as opal? That’s right - they are both framed from amorphous silica. To what extent is this similarity? To the extent that certain petrified woods are in fact considered opal.  You may hear these specimens referred to as opalized wood or wood replacement opal.

Biggest opal

One of the biggest opals ever found was discovered by miner Charlie Dunstan in November 1906. It was huge by opal’s standard, The stone was eventually bought in the early 1940s by none other than the J.D. Rockefeller. It is called “the Fire Queen.”

Black Opal

Black opal is considered to be the most valuable kind of this gemstone available. This is due to how rare it is compared to white, gray, and green opal.

The most valuable opal

The “Aurora Australis'' is considered to be the most valuable black opal in existence. It was also discovered by opal miner Charlie Dunstan in 1938 in Lightning Ridge. The stone is now on display at the Altman and Cherney showroom in Sydney, Australia. 

Natural state

Unlike other gemstones in the market, opals are generally left in their natural state. Some common treatments are performed on them but it’s mostly to fill in fractures or darken the stone. 

The goddess of fertility

One of the first references to the gem was made by Pliny the Elder. The man suggests that the real etymology of the stone is attributable to the wife of Saturn, Ops —- the goddess of fertility. 

Superstition 

In the Middle Ages, opal was considered to be a stone that could ward off the Devil and call on angels. As such it was said to provide great luck

Anne Of Geierstein 

Opal had a fall from grace when Sir. Walter Scott published the novel Anne Of Geierstein in 1829. In the novel, the Baroness of Arnheim wears an opal talisman with supernatural powers. When a drop of holy water falls on the gemstone, the opal loses all its worth and the Baroness dies soon after. Sales of opal dropped by 50% across Europe due to this novel — and it even led to Russians labeling opal as the embodiment of the “evil eye.”

 

Regalia Gold Opal and Ruby Ring from NIXIN

Here at NIXIN Jewelry, we are drawn to uniquely beautiful opals and the interesting stories they hold.  Come explore the magic. 

 

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Opal and Chakras - A look at the New Age phenomenon

Disclaimer: Before we dive headlong into the relationship between opals and chakra points it’s important to highlight a couple of notes— crystallography, also known as the science of crystals, and chakra points are what is commonly referred to as pseudo-science or fringe science. In essence, it means that it is based on beliefs, traditions and spirituality, not - and pardon the pun - stone-cold facts. 


Opals have had a somewhat vertiginous relationship with everything related to spirituality. A relationship that has seen a hike during the past few years mainly due to the New Age movement. Why is that? What makes them so unique? Why do they attract such an open-minded subset? Why are they so alluring? Well, stick around and get ready as we explore the thaumaturgical nature of opals and their power over chakra points.


The allure and seductive nature of opals?

 

Opals have always been exotic gems — in antiquity, they were far more valuable and fascinating than diamonds and rubies. To what extent? To the point that many ancient cultures thought they were out of this world. Rocks or stones that came crashing down from the heavens. Everything about them is unique and incredibly attractive. 

  • Their crystalline structure is unlike any other on the planet. 
  • They are composed of millions of tiny spheres smashed together into an amorphous mass.
  • Only a few places on the globe have them.
  • They have inspired, due to their kaleidoscopic nature and colors, new words and terms to describe their beauty: opalescent, opaline, iridescent, play-of-color, etc.
  • You can find them in just about every color imaginable — a rainbow of possibilities. 
  • They are composed of up to 20% water; something distinct among gems.
  • They have been central to all manner of myths, stories, and magical traditions. 
  • 95% of the world’s opal is mined in Australia. The rest can be found in Ethiopia, Brazil, and Mexico, with some deposits found in North America.
  • Finally, it is one of a handful of gemstones that can be found outside of our planet. Where? On Mars!
  • Ancient Romans thought it was a symbol of hope and good fortune, to the point that it was often called the Queen of Gemstones. 

Bloom Rose Gold Lavender Opal Sapphire Necklace by NIXIN Jewelry

A passion for Opal

 

What ultimately makes Opal such an attractive and oftentimes seductive gemstone is its unsettling and oftentimes mysterious nature. Opal’s true beauty lies in its mystique. In its bizarre play of color and 3D trap of prismatic flashes. When you look deeply into an opal gemstone you can get lost and trapped within its multifaceted and colorful core. 

This quality, this bizarre characteristic is why it is such a coveted stone in crystallography, why it is such a sought-after tool in the area of color therapy and spiritual healing. From uplifting swatches of yellow and orange to calming blues, all the way to savage erotic reds, each stone can display a different hue and each hue seems alive, hinting at its magical and emotional influence. 


Opals and your Chakras

 

What exactly are Chakras?


According to ancient Hindu beliefs, which have been adopted by modern philosophies and New Age dogmas, chakras are various focal points in our bodies, energy lines, that are used in a variety of meditation practices — what is commonly referred to as tantra. 


The concept of Chakras can be traced to ancient Hindu texts, and beliefs or how they perform differ from region to region. For example, Hindus believe that there are six to seven chakras, while Buddhists only accept five. 


Today, in esoteric practices, New Age philosophy and Western beliefs, what we know as chakras is a bastardized amalgamation of different traditions and philosophies. A confluence of “unintentional collaboration” between many groups of people. From Indilogist to scholars, and myth builders like Joseph Campbell, to psychological interpretations by Carl Jung, to color systems created by Charles W. Leadbeater, to modern healers and yogis like Barbara Brennan. 


The reality is that today, what we denote as chakra points is really a rainbow collection created after intensive back and forth, and editing, and re editing by all manner of psychologists, esotericists, yogis, gurus, and clairvoyants on the planet. And even now they still differ in their understanding of it. Many attribute extra layers to them, layers created by your aura, your developmental stages, your associated disease, your state of conscience, your history. 


Why do we make this distinction? Just so you understand that each book, each teacher, has their own idea of what chakras are. 


The seven chakras

 

With that said, todays modern beliefs hold fast to the idea that our body contains seven sacred points that are influenced by energies. These seven points, the chakras, regulate our physical and mental well-being. They go from the base of the spine to the top of our head. 

  • Muladhara: Root Chakra.
  • Svadhisthana: Sacral Chakra.
  • Manipura: Solar Plexus Chakra.
  • Anahata: Heart Chakra.
  • Vishuddha: Throat Chakra.
  • Anja: Third Eye Chakra.
  • Sahasrara: Crown Chakra.

Each one of these chakra points manages, regulates, and influences a branch of your well-being. From our sexual prowess, all the way to our mental acuity and our ability to associate with the spiritual — with the unforeseen, with the metaphysical.

The color of Opal

 

Here’s where opal shines. Each one of these points, these energy doorways have a color. They incorporate, particularly in the new age version, Newtonian colors of the rainbow, a quality they did not have in the ancient Indian system.

This new characteristic makes them susceptible to gems and crystals that share the same visual lights and the electromagnetic spectrum. Why? On account of energy signals and Newtonian optics that have to do with frequency and/or wavelengths and electron transition and rendition emissions. 

Opal, due to its nature and mass spectrometry is supposed to have a calming and oftentimes regulatory effect on the chakra points. The gemstone's main allure to spiritual healing in this type of practice is on account of its wide range of colors. Opal’s broad color spectrum makes it possible to find a different color opal for each chakra point. 

Seven chakras is as follows, from bottom to top: Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Nabhi-Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddhi, Ajna, Sahasrara. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia).

  • Obsidian Opals - Root Chakra - helps with feelings of security, confidence and self-esteem. 
  • Fire Opals - Sacral Chakra – Boosts passion, lust and fertility
  • Yellow Opals - Solar Plexus Chakra - deals liver, stomach and gallbladder problems.
  • Green or Pink Opals - Heart Chakra - mitigates jealousy, ire and grudges
  • Blue Opals - Throat Chakra- betters our communication skills, and improves throat and thyroid issues
  • Violet Opals - Third Eye Chakra - develops our decisiveness and faith
  • White Opals - Crown Chakra - deals with head issues like headaches and migraines

Here at NIXIN Jewelry, we love every chromatic hue Opal has to offer. Come find your color. 

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