Opal gemstones are stunning in endless ways, but the uniqueness of each stone is a particularly special trait of this gemstone. Those drawn to Australian opal jewelry or handmade opal rings appreciate the variety in their bright colors and the different ways each stone glitters and sparkles. That’s likely why they’ve been affectionately nicknamed the “Queen of Gems.”
How Opals Are Mined
Nearly 95% of the world’s opal supply is derived in Australia, but they can also be found in Indonesia and Peru, and beyond. Emily Amey’s Australian Opal Jewelry collection comprises exceptionally prismatic stones set into necklaces, one of a kind rings, earrings, and more.
Opal gemstones are created when water flows through the crevices of stone and petrified wood, over the course of millions of years. In fact, it takes five million years to produce just a centimeter of opal, explaining why these gemstones are considered so precious.
Emily Amey has a keen eye for the most stunning opals, selecting those that display an exceptional range of colors and patterns. She focuses on complimenting each stone with the most suitable settings, creating stunning, handmade pieces like the 14k Australian Opal Ring with Diamond Clusters.
Play of Color Phenomenon
The variety of colors that shine from opals can span the rainbow, possibly reflecting every color the eye can perceive. Fiery reds and glowing oranges, the most common in opals, are often complimented by turquoise blues, royal purples, and juicy lime hues.
What creates this array of shades is actually called the play-of-color phenomenon. Only precious opals exhibit this phenomenon, which is one way you’ll be able to tell a valuable, high-quality opal from a lesser-quality stone.
An extremely interesting occurrence, the play-of-color phenomenon happens when white light enters the precious opal. From there, it bounces around the silica spheres within and creates the fiery, vibrant display that is the trademark of the opal.
And beyond the coloring, each opal will also glimmer in a pattern all its own. Emily Amey’s favorite opals exhibit unusual patterns such as a striping or checkerboard effect.
The angle at which you view the gemstone can impact how the light dances within, meaning the colors and patterns may change depending on how you view the stone. What a remarkable trait in such a special gemstone!
Types of Opals
Precious opals are the only kind that exhibits the play-of-color phenomenon, resulting in the most stunning stones. Within this category, there are multiple types with different origins and traits.
You may find your personal taste leads you to one variety of opals over another. Below we’ll explore five types, boulder, lightning ridge, black, Andamooka, and pipe opals.
As you may suspect, black opals are known for dark tones that can range from moderate to deep, nearly black. They’re also known as the most valuable type of opal due to their incomparable vibrancy.
Unlike all other types, black opals possess traces of carbon and iron oxide elements, which are responsible for the dark body of the stone. This deep tone allows the rainbow colors to shine more vibrantly than lighter types of opals.
Black opals are typically cut into oval shapes to enhance their natural beauty. They’re one of the most beautiful options for handmade opal rings, especially for those looking to commemorate their love with an opal engagement ring.
Lightning Ridge Opal
The lightning ridge opal is a type of black opal, sourced from a specific area in Australia. It’s known to those that work in fine jewelry as one of the best-kept secrets in gemstones. The gems mined from the Lightning Ridge in Australia are known as some of the highest quality, breathtaking black opals in the entire world.
Boulder opals are the second most valuable type of opal, following black opals. They’re valued for their darker coloring as well as the fact that they are only found in Queensland, Australia.
Boulder opals are easily identified due to the dark to signature layer of solid brown ironstone that’s found on the back of the gemstone. They’re mined from large ironstone boulders beneath the ground – hence the name. This dark layer of ironstone is responsible for the generally darker tone that these types of opals take on.
The most stunning and valuable boulder opals have a “clean face.” This means the whole bar of color is visible on the surface of the stone, beaming with rich, rainbow hues. Emily Amey embraces the dark vibrancy of the stone in her 14k Australian Boulder Opal Ring With Tsavorites, a stunning ring with flashes of blue, teal, purple and green.
Andamooka opals are named for the region in South Australia where they were first discovered. The Andamooka opal fields are considered one of Australia’s most prominent. They were first discovered back in the 1930s.
The Andamooka opal is most famous for being a type of opal used in royal jewelry. In 1954, an 18-carat Andamooka opal was set into a necklace and presented to Queen Elizabeth II during her first state trip to Australia. From then on this type of opal has also been called the “Queen’s Opal.”
Pipe opals are an extremely unique type of opal. They are formed in long, pipe-like cylinders within a host rock, usually ironstone, sandstone, or petrified wood. Each type of host stone has a different effect on the appearance of the opal, meaning pipe opals can range vastly in color and pattern.
Pipe opals were discovered much more recently than many other types of opals, first discovered in Australia in 2007.
The stunning rainbow beauty and unique patterns that shine from each and every type of opal make them one of the most admired and valuable gemstones in the world.
Opals are a popular choice for those looking to buy an irreplaceable piece of jewelry that reflects their preferences and tastes. The endless ways opals can sparkle and shine make them a very special way to commemorate great love – whether through a one of a kind ring, or a pair of earrings for a loved one.