A Writers Guide to Opal



Opal is a mineraloid (a mineral-like substance that does not demonstrate crystallinity) that is made from water and silica. It is composed of micro scale (150 to 300 nm) silica spheres, hexagonal, or cubic close-packed lattices. This internal structure causes interference and diffraction of light passing through it. It gets even more complicated than that, but I’ll stop there.

Opal has the ability to refract and reflect specific wavelengths of light and from this we get the term opalescence.

The color of opal ranges from clear through white, gray, yellow, orange, red, green, blue, brown, and black. The most common coloring is white and green. The rarest is red against black.

The origin of the word opal is a topic of debate. It may be adapted from the Roman term opalus (precious stone) or it may have been adapted from the Greek word opillos (to see a change in color). The stongest argument is that it was adapted from the Sanskrit word úpala.

closeup of fire opal

closeup of fire opal

History and Lore

  • In the Middle Ages, it was believed opal possessed the virtues of all the gemstone whose colors could be seen in its color spectrum. It was considered good luck.
  • In Sir Walter Scott’s book Anne of Geierstein, the Baroness of Arnheim wears an opal talisman that has supernatural powers. When a drop of holy water falls on the stone, it turns colorless, and the Baroness dies soon afterwards. Due to the popularity of Scott’s novel, people began to associate opals with bad luck and death.
  • Archaeologist Louis Leakey found six-thousand-year-old opal artifacts in a cave in Kenya.
  • Opals are set in the crown jewels of France.
  • Pliny described the opal as “the fire of the carbuncle, the brilliant purple of amethyst, and the sea green of the emerald, all shinning together in incredible union.”
  • The Romans called opal “cupid paederos” (child as beautiful as love) and believed it was the symbol of hope and purity.
  • The Arabs believed opals fell from heaven in flashes of lightning thus acquiring their color.

Opal is the symbol of faithfulness and confidence.

Flame Queen Opal

Flame Queen Opal

Famous Opals

  • Andamooka Opal | Queen’s Opal: a 203 carats andamooka opal set with diamonds into an necklet and presented to Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 to honor her first visit to South Australia.
  • Halley’s Comet Opal: the largest uncut black opal in the world; named because it was unearthed in 1986, a year when Halley’s Comet could be seen from Earth.
  • Flame Queen: 263.18 carat opal, best-known example of “eye-of-opal”, an eye-like effect created when opal in-fills a cavity; this stone has a flat, central raised dome that flashes red or gold depending on the angle, and it’s surrounded by a band of deep blue-green, triangular in shape.
  • Orphanus: an opal set in the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor (known as “The Crown of Charlemagne”). It was described “as though pure white snow flashed and sparked with the color of bright ruddy wine, and was overcome by this radiance.”
  • Roebling Opal: a 2,585 carat uncut black opal with flashes of blue and green from Virgin Valley, Nevada.
  • Sun God Opal: 35 carat transparent blue gem with play-of-color, it has a human face surrounded by sun rays carved into the stone; assumed to be Aztec when cataloged in 1839, however, the origin remains unknown.

Magical and Mystical Properties include

  • restoring inner harmony
  • strengthening memory
  • purifying blood
  • aiding in channeling and psychic journeys
  • mounted in gold and worn close to the heart, it wards off evil
  • fire opals (red-orange) enhance personal powers and protect against danger
  • black opals bring good luck (seems contradictory to the information above)
  • white opals give power to the wearer during the full moon

Opals should not be used in conjunction with other stones.

Discharging & Recharging

To discharge opal, soak it frequently in water for 30 minutes. To recharge, place it among clear quartz crystals. Do not recharge in the sun. (In stone therapy, when using stones to heal, their energy is used up, requiring the stones to be recharged.)

This is a reference for fiction writers and should not be taken as medical or spiritual advice.

gemstone index
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  1. I love opal! so pretty.
    I dub thee Kreativ Blogger – come get your award =)
    and happy o day!

  2. Opals are beautiful! One of my favorite stones.

    Here's wishing you a great week!

    God bless and keep you,

  3. Opals are my birthstone. Beautiful rock 🙂

  4. I love opal! Such a pretty stone.

    My deepest condolences for your loss, Holly.

  5. Very nice. I like the word “diffraction” in this one.

  6. Opal is my birthstone as well! I had a beautiful opal ring when I was a teenager…a heart shaped opal stone with two tiny diamonds on either side…but sadly the setting came loose and I lost the opal. 🙁

  7. Don't worry about catching up on my blog. I went away for a few days and came back to 400 blogs. I am saving your blog posts for reference when I need information on crystals and the like.

  8. Welcome back, Holly – I hope you're okay. We missed you! Don't worry about catching up, etc. We're just happy you're here!

  9. The fire opal is gorgeous.

  10. Opal is my traditional birthstone. I love all the colors!

  11. The first 'real' ring I ever had was an opal one from my grandmother. I still cherish that ring. This warmed my heart.

    I’m A-Z Blogging on Langley Writes about Writing and Langley’s Rich and Random Life

  12. that fire opal is cool! love the picture. hope you are surviving the a-z! I'm trying to keep afloat amidst the sea of everyday posts and commenting.

  13. strengthening the memory? I definitely need this one!

    Tossing It Out
    Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

  14. Just wanted to pop in and see how you are doing.

    1000 posts is way too many for me, I would have done the same thing you did. Starting fresh … ah, that's good.

  15. These are my favorites stones. It was what I chose for and engagement ring.

  16. The close up of the fire opal is just amazing!! Great to find out a little more about it – thanks! 🙂

  17. By the way, I put a link to this gems/crystal blog series on my sidebar under Writer's Guide to…

    Hope you don't mind.

  18. Wow! The closeup of the fire opal is absolutely stunning!

  19. Fascinating! I always wanted one (it's my birthstone) but my mom wouldn't let me have one. For some reason (her own thinking or Korean custom, I'm not sure) she considered it bad luck!

  20. I love opals and always wanted one. Someday perhaps.

    The worst movie my sister allowed my children to watch was Candy man…my youngest was still a toddler. You may understand when I say, I no longer talk to her.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  21. Wow, you know a lot about this – We love our opals down here in Australia 🙂
    Wagging Tales – Blog for Writers

  22. I love opals. I love looking for them too.

  23. My nana gave me an opal necklace which I love. Gorgeous.

  24. Hi Holly pleased to read that opals don't bring bad luck .. the myth created by Scott .. interesting – they're my mother's birthstone.

    Thanks – interesting information .. cheers Hilary

  25. I think opals are magnificent. I even gave one of my characters in my fantasy book black opalescent eyes.

  26. The Happy Whisk, I doing pretty well. Thanks.

    GigglesandGuns, you are now the second person I know who has an opal engagement/wedding ring.
    Clarissa, thanks!

    Okay Nancy, Candy man is much worse than Jaws. I was too scared to watch it!

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