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Fire Opal Jewelry

Composition of the Fire Opal

Like quartz, opals are made up of silicon dioxide, but they also absorb and retain water. So, while quartz is a strong durable stone, opals are delicate and must be worn with care. The water content can range anywhere from 3% to 30%, but the typical water content is around 6% to 10%. The more water, the more fragile stones like the fire opal and others are.

This gemstone is a sedimentary stone formed in the nooks and crannies of caves and holes in the earth. Water combined with silicates forms a gel-like substance that fills in these areas and then, as it sets, an opal is formed.

When the word "fire" is used to describe a gemstone, it is referencing the play of color present- how the light is reflected off of the silica spheres inside the stone. A fire opal is so named because of its actual color which is a mixture of reds, oranges and yellows. The presence of iron oxide particles are what create these color combinations in the stone. To look at a fire opal pendant , it appears to be a glowing ember, but it is actually cool and smooth to the touch.

This particular variety of opal may or may not have play of color. But, with its vibrant hues, that particular trait is secondary. People seek the quality of color in these stones not the flash.

Origins of the Fire Opal

There are a few mines scattered about North and South America as well as Australia, Turkey and Ethiopia. But, the most significant deposits are in Mexico. This is where the vast majority of marketable stones come from. Recently, deposits have been found in Brazil. These may turn into quite a significant find because of the large size of the stones.

Trivia, Mysticism and Lore

The fire opal is well loved in Mexico and considered the national gemstone. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs new about the blazing stones and used them in their artwork as well as rituals. However, it wasn't until 1830s that the country renewed its interest in the gemstone and began mining it commercially.

It is believed that a fire opal pendant creates a warm and open feeling in the wearer and also eliminates obstacles in achieving one's full potential. Another observation about this gemstone is that positive people and those wanting to make a positive change are drawn to the smoldering colors of the fire opal.

Opal: A Unique Cut

Opals, by virtue of their fragility and the play of color, are typically cut in a cabochon style gemstone. This smooth rounded cut is the best way to display the flash and colors of the opal. However, the blazing colors of the fire opal are often faceted to show off the heat of the stone. If there is also play of color, fire opal and other pieces may be cabochon cut or faceted.

A Day for Fire Opals

Each month has a birthstone and October gets the fiery and flashy opal. While many opals have the cool look of blues, greens and pinks, consider a fire opal pendant to celebrate a special birthday. Another special occasion deserving of this unique gemstone is the 14th wedding anniversary. There is no better way for a husband to show his wife that his love is still burning strong after 14 years than with a fire opal bracelet.

Care and Maintenance of Opal Jewelry

The amount of water in the gemstone determines how strong it is. However, the mere presence of any water makes all opals fragile. On the Mohs scale of hardness, they range from a 5.5 to a 6.5. As a result, cleaning and maintenance must be done very carefully. Using a soft brush, gentle soap and tepid water, clean the dust and residue from the stone. A fire opal bracelet will scratch very easily so the cloth or brush must be very soft.

Storing opal jewelry is also very important. They should not be tossed into the jewelry box to be tumbled about with other bracelets, rings and necklaces. The best thing to do is keep it in a jewelry bag and in its own location. For arid climates, it is also a good idea to store the piece in an airtight container with a damp cloth. This keeps the stone from drying out and cracking. Extreme and sudden temperature changes should also be avoided as it can cause cracking.

Daily wear is not recommended for these delicate stones. Whether they are worn frequently or on just special occasions, the setting should be secure and protect the stone from chipping and cracking.

Fire opals are beautiful and each one is genuinely unique. Whether as a cabochon pendant in a bezel setting or a faceted fire opal bracelet , these stones add fire a touch of fire to a special occasion.