All About Opals

Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire 

(Elemental Opals, by Willem Learn)

The iridescence of Precious Opal has been prized since antiquity. A unique expression of our natural world, Opals form largely in Australia with accepted world supply suggested to be 95% to 97% from this source. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this mineraloid is the fact that water content can reach up to 21%. Many gemstones change allegiance based on color such as a Sapphire gaining the name of Ruby as it approaches a certain level of red or varieties of Beryl holding names based largely on color variances such as Aquamarine, Heliodor, or Morganite. Opal stays pure to its name and only gains a descriptor in front of Opal to designate the type. Common Opal often appears milky with little to no color play, but our focus is on 3 of the varieties that are sought after in the gem trade: Boulder Opal, Fire Opal, and Black Opal.

Boulder Opal is the product of inspired cutting to yield as much face up play of color to the viewer’s eye as possible. In nature opal often runs in thin layers so that amazing light play is present without the depth to create a faceted stone. By orientating the ironstone to the back or strategically incorporating it into the design, we can view scintillating specimens of Opal and house them in creative ways. Pictured below is a Katherine Jetter Cage Pendant uniquely displaying a pebble shaped Boulder Opal. One of my favorite ways to capture the beauty of this natural gem and hold it near and dear is when the viewer has the ability to see every angle, play of color, and all of the beauty with which mother nature imbued this rare formation of earth and water.

Fire Opal is mined and exported to the world market from Mexico. This stone can display color play and features orange, yellow, or even gold body tones. Unlike most Opal varieties, the Fire Opal is translucent and this attribute allows for a different feel and emotion to opaque formations of this rich in variety gem. Below Katherine hand selects a vibrant shade of Fire Opal and knowing the characteristics of the stone intimately, she ingeniously chooses to display it in a bezel with claw prongs that guards and protects this rare geological formation.

First and foremost amongst the most prized Precious Opals in the world are Opals that have an overall body tone that is dark; punctuating and emphasizing the fire coming from the stone, dazzling the eye, and creating the optic that is prized around the world from antiquity to now. The world’s supply of Black Opal is contained predominantly in New South Wales, Australia in Lightning Ridge. Pictured below, The Royal One, is a divine specimen and possibly the rarest black opal in the world. The secretive miner that discovered this amazing specimen entrusted Katherine Jetter with presenting The Royal One to the world as she has so often safeguarded precious Opals from her homeland and shepherded them from Australia to the heart of the couture world. If you would like to experience the varieties of Opal available, then we invite you to join us. Visit our Opals in one of the boutiques across the country with which we partner, venture to the Island at The Vault Nantucket to see where we spend our summers, or order one from us online.