ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Types of Opals - Characteristics, Healing Properties and Other Facts

Updated on June 2, 2012
Opal crystal
Opal crystal

Chemical Composition & Hardness

Chemically, opal is silicon dioxide plus water. It has a chemical composition of SiO2.nH2O. The water content is usually ranges from 3% to 10%. Therefore it is noncrystalline, unlike most other gemstones. As opal contains a high percentage of water, it may deteriorate in cold and heat. Opal hardness varies, but generally ranges from 5.5 – 6.5 according to Mohs scale of harness. There are many types of opal such as crystal opal, black opal, white pal, boulder opal, yowah nut opal and matrix opal.

Types of opals
Types of opals


Opal is the most colorful of all gems. The stone is usually green, white or colorless, but it may be brown, gray, red and yellow. Opal has a rich iridescence and extraordinary or remarkable play of changing colors, usually in green, blue and red. This phenomenon is often called opalescence. The arrangement of silica spheres within the opal create these colors. The play of color may consist of tiny, dense flashes of color, or large individual flashes (known as schilers). The value of an opal is determined by the distribution and intensity of the color flashes. Opals with milky-white base with varying flashes of color are the opals we see most often in jewelry.

Opals which lacking play of color are known as common opals, and opals displaying play of color are known as precius opals. Gems are cut from both the common and precious forms, but precious opal is the primary gem of this stone. The most valuable and desired opal is black opal (a dark green, dark blue, or black background with a strong play of color). Some precious opals are even more valuable per carat than diamonds. Most opals including black opals come from Australia. Opals are also found in western United States, Mexico, Africa, Brazil, Nicaragua and areas of the former Soviet Union. Six-thousand years old opal adornments was found by an archaeologist, Louis Leakey in a cave in Kenya. French Emperor Napoleon gave opal called ‘The Burning of Troy’ to his wife Josephine because of its strong play of colors.

Magical Properties

Opal is also believed to have mystical, healing and magical properties. It is a stone of inspiration which enhances the creativity, memory and imagination. Opal is associated with the heart, and told to regulate the metabolism and stimulate the glands. The ancient Greeks believed this stone could give to the wearer the power of foresight. Opal was revered by the Romans as the symbol of purity and hope and they believed the gem could protect them from diseases. Opal was thought to be beneficial for eyesight in the Middle Ages, some people even believed the gem could render the wearer invisible.

Opal is the birthstone for those born in the month of October and goes by the title “The Queen of Gems”. These stones was once considered unlucky, but this is probably due to the fragility of the stones and tend to scratch and chip easily. The stone should be protected from strong light and heat, which can dry the water out, causing cracks. Acids, ultrasonic cleaners, or any strong solvents should also be avoided.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Susan Wong profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Wong 

      6 years ago

      Synthetic opal can be produced in the laboratory, it has the similar structure with natural ones and many of them also have brighter and larger color pathces. You can also notice that there is more ordered array of colors in them as the intricate pattern of natural opals cannot be duplicated. A polymer substance (glue) was added to help bind the silica spheres to create opals.

      However, water is the common element missing in synthetic opal and that is why synthetic ones are harder and usually more durable.

      Thx for visitting my hub :)

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      Before reading your hub, I didn't know anything about the chemistry of opals. Voted up and interesting.

      Here's my stoopid question of the day. I know that it's possible to make synthetic rubies. What about opals? Would coaxing the silica to arrange itself in spheres be a problem? If so, how does Nature do it?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)