Opal is the birthstone for October, so I’ve reached into my horde of opal beads to create a group of simple, affordable, very pretty natural opal necklaces.
My favorites are the white “moss” opals – they have a liquid or jelly-like appearance with delicate charcoal, smoke, blue, and black coloration. In fact, unlike crystalline gemstones, opals are a gel formed in nature by the combination of silica and water. Up to 20% of an opal’s weight can be water, though the average water content is 6% to 10%.
This water evaporates over time so it is important to keep opal hydrated. If opal is kept in a too-dry environment it can become brittle and dull. Luckily, wearing opal against your skin provides enough humidity to keep opal in fine shape.
The most expensive opals offer bright ‘plays of light’ in a range of colors. While they are much sought after, they’re not my cup of tea. I prefer the fat, juicy stones in the photo above, with markings that look like miniature storm clouds and icy lakes.
If you are shopping for opals, please take care… there are so many fake opals sold as real, including on Etsy. Many people don’t realize that most of the “Opalite” we see for sale is actually plastic. “Opaline” and “Christolite” opal are also synthetic – either glass or plastic. Since “opal” (like amber, topaz, and turquoise) is also the name of a color, some people mistake glass labeled as “opal” (colored) for real opal.