Opalus – the Roman name for opals, means ‘Precious Gemstone’. One could argue that all the gemstones are present in opals, the ruby, the emerald, the amethyst, the citrine. The flashes of colour truly do ‘play’. You can look at an opal you’ve seen a hundred times and still see something different and new, that draws you in once again. Opal jewellery is a matter close to our heart here at Sarah Hickey Jewellery.
I absolutely love to work with Opals. They’re not always the jewellers best friend, certainly not the hardest stone and sometimes when you set them you have hold your breath! Opals are a truly a magical stone, and it requires a ‘sleight of hand’. However the dexterity and skill involved in setting opals, is part of the challenge and the fun.
The first known source of opals was from the ancient mines of Slovakia, a source that has long been depleted. The opals that we use here at Sarah Hickey Jewellery are from South Eastern Australia, most particularly the mines of Coober Pedy and Lightening Ridge. A rich source of opals, a land of underground houses, deep opal mines in an arid landscape.
What exactly are Opals?
An opal takes about 5-6million years to form – yes, read that sentence again! The process involves a hardening of silicon dioxide and water.
As water runs down through the earth it picks up silica from sandstone and carries this silica-rich solution into cracks and natural faults in rocks. The water evaporates and the silica is left behind. Most of the opal that is formed is called ‘potch’ or ‘common opal’ by miners, the same physical composition as the opal gemstone, but without the beautiful colour play. The opals who’s magical dancing fire is visable from their white snowy bases, are the opals that are mined for the unquestionable beauty, and the ones that I love to work with.
We have many opal pieces in the collection that you can explore here, the one of a kind, opal necklaces are some of my favourites and I wear one along with the gold letter pendants of my childrens names every day.
Opal is the birthstone of October, but it can most certainly be enjoyed by all. It makes a beautiful gift, and there is much lore in it’s history to know for those who went to take a deep dive. The Romans believed it would bring the wearer good luck, and we certainly like to think that’s true.