Opal is believed to take its name from the Indian Sanskrit word ‘upala,’ meaning ‘precious stone’. Opals are categorised based on their appearance. Some of the main varieties being; precious, common, boulder and fire. Precious opals display a fantastic ‘play-of-colour’ as light is refracted within the internal silica spheres, creating a display of spectral colours.
Common opals are translucent to almost opaque with a milky appearance, in a range of hues which include blue, orange and green. Boulder opals are a seam of precious opal that are too thin to be removed from the host rock. Fire opals are a translucent orangish-red hue, prized for its play-of-colour along with an enchanting body colour.
The ancient Greeks believed that opals were formed from the tears of joy wept by Zeus when he defeated the titans, and that the opal bestowed prophetic powers. Opal was the favourite gemstone of Queen Victoria, she was often pictured wearing them throughout her reign.
Opal is the national gemstone of Australia; the country itself is the world’s main source of precious opals, most notably in Coober Pedy. Other significant locations are Ethiopia, USA and Mexico. The largest opal ever discovered is the ‘Olympic Australis,’ it has remained uncut and in its natural state, weighing a massive 17,000 carats.