Sunday, July 26, 2009

Opals in handmade gemstone jewelry

There are few stones as fascinating as opals. The color play is the result of tiny silica spheres inside the stone. These silica spheres cause the color changes that occur when the stone is looked at from different angles.

There are many different types of opals, including opals that don't have the color play we think of in Australian opals, for example. They still play with the light in interesting ways. While there are almost endless varieties of opals, I've only worked with a few. The major reason is cost - they can be very expensive.

There is a variety of opal here in Sonoma Valley called the Sonoma opal. It's a very pretty peach color, and it has lots of color play. The person who discovered it is very secretive about where in the valley the opal is mined.

I've worked mostly with the African green opal, which is still on my web site here (I will be taking it off the website soon), yellow opals, and Peruvian pink and blue opals. Good quality African green opals are rich and have incredible depth. The blue Peruvian opals are the same, with their brilliant blue, although their coloring can range from almost white, to deep blue, with the deep blue being preferred. I love the delicate shades of pink of the pink opal. Both the Peruvian pink and blue opals often have dark dendrite (fern like) inclusions, as well as flecks or shadings of green, yellow and other colors.

Many opals are stabilized because they're so soft, with a hardness of 4.5 - 5 on the Mohs scale of hardness (10 is the hardest).

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