Opulent Opal Options for October

Opal Cabochon
Opal is the official birthstone of October and believed to be the emotion stone.  Many people love this stone but others think it is not very exciting because they only know of one type of opal and that is a rather soft stone.  Hopefully this post will let readers know of the many opal options and possible alternatives. 

I know I was not impressed with natural opal when I got my first ring as a gift from my husband.  I thought the twinkling (play of) colors in the ring were neat but half of the stone fell out of the ring the 2nd time I wore it.  Opal can be a brittle stone and mine was obviously cracked when it was set.  So part of the stone fell out.  Fortunately I was sitting at a table when it did and I could take the stone parts and the ring back to the store.  They asked if I wanted a replacement?  No way was I going to have that happen again!  We got a refund.  I now know that it is better to get an opal in a doublet or triplet rather than a full stone.  These types typically have a slice of opal over a harder stone or under a clear quartz setting to act as protection or enhancement.  So you get the color and light play of the opal, but a stronger setting.  You can also look for lab-createdsea-opal, or opalite in jewelry.

Opals come from many places, including the USA.  The most well-known opals come from Australia and have tiny dots of color and light when moved about in a light source.  There are newer opals discovered in Ethiopia that have more of what can be called flashes of colors since it is streaks rather than dots of colored light.  Opals from Peru are usually solid pink in color.  There are black, blue and bolder opals.  Many of these are usually made into artisan or mosaic style jewelry, I guess they are either really soft are usually found in smaller pieces.  A yellow opal ring, violet opal ring, and blood opal pendant were introduced on ShopNBC recently.  There are also red or orange fire opals which come from Mexico and Brazil and are often set like traditional faceted gemstones, as well as other unusual stones. 

In some shops in Cancun, they sell something they call Mexican opals. From looking at it,  I suspect it really is a triplet with a local multi-color sliced jelly opal stone underneath it rather than what most people think of as true jewelry-grade opal. This pretty stone comes in traditional silver setting and there is typically a choice of base colors so you can get a version that is primarily purple, blue, pink, or green.

Want to make an opal really sparkle?  Supposedly sunshine creates more color-play than artificial light sources.  I tried the water-dip method that is supposed make even more colors come alive – it worked on a white opal I never even saw dots in before.  The trick is to place your opal in water for 2 minutes before wearing.  Dry the piece of jewelry and put it on.  In a few minutes it will glitter when the light hits it just right.  The reason this is supposed to work is that opal has water trapped inside and the addition of more water causes a rainbow or ripple effect.

Want to know more about opals?  Check out Paul Deasy’s “Opals” book to learn more about this stone.  Want other alternatives to the opal?  I think if you like the look of solid opals but want a sturdier stone, you might consider some of the lighter colors of jade as an alternative.  You get the typical cabochon-look but with a much sturdier stone that also comes in more colors.  Also, look at treated topaz (mercury mist) and drusy.  Those are made to look like traditional white opal, yet these may be less expensive, stronger, and just as nice looking.  Also consider moonstone. Check out this birthstone chart for other alternatives for this month as well.

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