opal stone


  • Origin of the name: From the Sanskrit ‘Upala’ meaning gemstone. From the Latin Opaluset and the Greek Opallios, meaning ‘of changing colour’
  • Chemical composition: Hydrous silicon dioxide, SiO2, nH2O.
  • Crystal System: Amorphous (cluster aggregates)
  • Hardness: Between 5.5 and 6.5.
  • Deposits: Australia, Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Peru, the United States
  • Colour: Milky white with grey shades that can be colourful (yellow, pink, green, purple).

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History of Opal Stone

Its history goes beyond that of Man and extends throughout our planet. From the Sanskrit ‘Upala’ meaning precious stone, the Latin ‘Opalus’, and the Greek ‘Opallios’, its name means ‘of changing colour’

Exploited for 10,000 years in the Virgin Valley in North America, objects decorated with Ethiopian opal were discovered in a cave in Kenya and dated to 4,000 BC.

Legends related to meteorological phenomena were attributed to it among various cultures: the Aborigines called it the ‘snake of the rainbow’ as the god creator was considered to have united the colour spectrum to create this stone. This concept is found in India, where the rainbow goddess transformed into an opal to escape the many suitors captivated by her beauty. Arab culture asserts that lightning bolts trapped in rock created opal.

In ancient Greece, it came into being through the eyes of King of the gods Zeus: his tears of joy following the triumph against the Titans turned into opal on contact with the ground. Since then, Greeks attributed it powers of foresight and prophecy, a belief found in the Middle Ages, when it was renamed ‘ophthalmios’ (eye stone), in reference to its virtues of vision.

To Romans, it was a sign of hope and purity. They were the first to commercialism it, peaking interest: Marc Antoine is said to have banned a senator for refusing to sell him an opal destined for Cleopatra estimated today at 60,000 euros.

Some of the most famous and valuable in the world include:

  • Olympic australis opal: named after the Olympic Games taking place in Melbourne during the year of its discovery, it is kept raw and its 17,000 carats raise its price to $2,500,000;
  • The Andamooka opal weighs 203 carats and, offered to Queen Elizabeth II, was set on a pendant surrounded by diamonds;
  • The Burning of Troy, a 700-carat black opal estimated at 50,000 euros which disappeared after the Second World War;
  • The flame queen opal reaches 900 carats and originates from the Angledool mines in Australia;
  • Aurora australis, the most valuable among black opals, it weighs 180 carats and was estimated at 1 million Australian dollars.

Origin and Composition of Opal Stone

Opal is formed through alternating dry and wet periods. Precipitation, via the erosion phenomenon, transports various elements into groundwater, including silica, a natural form of silicon dioxide that accounts for more than 60% of the mass of continental crust. Through an aqueous chemical reaction called hydrolysis, silica forms opal which is rich in impurities. Once a new dry period begins, the upper layers of chalcedony and quartz, from which opal is extracted, form as a result of evaporation. This volatile and at times miniscule silica deposit requires delicate hand mining. The primary deposits have been noted on the Pacific and American continents, but also in various other parts of the world.

It was discovered in Australia in 1849 lodged in layers of sandy clay deposited by the sea throughout the Cretaceous period and during the creation of the Great Artesian Basin. Opal production then began in 1890 in the region that became New South Wales and Queensland. Today, 75% of opals come from the fields of Coober Pedy: discovered in the 1920s, they span 70 kilometres.

Considered a mineral until 2007, opal stone is composed of several elements: cristobalite, tridymite, hydrated amorphous silica, and water content which varies according to the variety. It cannot therefore be considered a mineral. It is distinguished from quartz due to its crystalline structure. Its quality is determined by the purity of its crystals, creating iridescent reflections.

The colour play comes from its light diffraction resulting from the random arrangement of microscopic plates of tridymite spheres, or cristobalite. This feature distinguishes the two primary opal varieties:

  • Common opal does not feature colour play;
  • Noble opal, a rather transparent type of quartz, is considered a semiprecious stone and is used in jewellery.

‘Harlequin’ opal is characterised by an extremely rare distribution of colours similar to the tile of the same name, though its background colour can be black, white, or boulder. However, is not a recognised variety.

These varieties are distinguished by origin, background colour or the nature of the gem:

  • alumocalcite;
  • diatomite;
  • fiorite;
  • forchérite;
  • hydrophane;
  • isopyre;
  • mascareignite;
  • ménilite;
  • neslite: light and tender, it floats on water;
  • opals by deposits;
  • Fire opal: its hues can vary, in transparency and from yellow orange or red. Colour play is not always present;
  • black opal;
  • gold opal;
  • quincite.

Litho Therapeutic Properties of Opal Stone

Opal Stone’s Psychological Benefits

Litho therapy uses crystals to work with energies and the chakras.

Opal’s water content dissipates energy blockages related to beliefs, and fears of loss, whilst restoring the flow of energy. It helps to awaken the consciousness, allowing you to let go and live in the present.

Each variety has its own vibration and effects for different purposes:

  • common opal vibrates at a softer intensity than the transparent and fire-like varieties and has calming and soothing effects on the emotional body: sensitive people, or those under excessive stress will benefit in particular;
  • noble opal, on the other hand, has an immense power of balancing energies;
  • Ethiopian opal is applied at the root, heart and crown chakra for the treatment of nervous system disorders, mental and nervous instability, and depression. It works as a mirror reflecting inner visions, facilitating astral travel and stimulating dreams;
  • Andean opal heals emotional wounds.
In addition, the choice of colour should not be overlooked:

  • white: to cope with our inner life. A symbol of the purity of feelings, it is often used for its positive vibrations and to balance the chakras, bringing joy, clarity and intuition;
  • black: to soothe our anxiety. It prevents apathy and lethargy
  • boulder: a stone with connections to higher spirits, Indians used it in ceremonies and rites of passage. It unblocks the chakras and purifies the aura.

Opal Stone’s Physical Benefits

Opal stone works both psychologically and physically, the two being intimately linked. It purifies the blood and kidneys, facilitates childbirth, and alleviates premenstrual syndrome. A sensual stone with aphrodisiac effects, it heightens the senses and removes inhibitions.

  • Grey opal fortifies and strengthens the heart, as well as the circulatory, parasympathetic and nervous systems;
  • White opal improves sleep, and is beneficial for gestive and gastric disorders;
  • Pink Andean opal alleviates respiratory ailments and viral infections;
  • Turquoise-blue Andean opal restores the skin, regulates the kidneys, stimulates blood cell production and rebalances the hormonal system.

Opal Stone Symbolism

  • Inner light
  • Luminous beam

Opal Stone Traditions

  • Opal Wedding anniversary: 21 years of marriage