Ocellius Ring with Opal

Opal, A Fiery Muse

One of the original “precious gemstones,” opals have been celebrated and coveted through the ages. For their lively light-play and rainbow colors, opal is unlike any other gemstone. One of four so-called phenomenal gemstones, they exhibit a unique light interaction called opalescence, created by perfectly ordered spheres of silica, which diffract light with a magical flourish.
Of the enigmatic gem, Pliny the Elder described, “a play within them that they equal the deepest and richest colors of painters. Others… simulate the flaming fire of burning sulfur and even the bright blaze of burning oil.” The light phenomenon he so poetically described is what modern geologists call “play of light”. This enchanting affect can include all colors in the visible spectrum.

Origin: Australia’s Legacy and Modern Finds

The gem has strong ties to the continent of Australia. Throughout the 20th century, upwards of 95% of all opal was mined in Australia. In 1994, however, a dazzling discovery revealed opals of magnificent beauty in Ethiopia, a location never before known for such deposits. The initial discovery was modest in size, but subsequent Ethiopian opal finds in 2008 and 2013 were delightfully abundant, challenging Australia’s nearly century-long dominance of the market.
Northern Lights Ring Australian Black Opal
Galatea Ring Ethiopian Opal
Pictured above are Northern Lights, a ring showcasing an Australian black opal, and Galatea Ring, flaunting a fiery Ethiopian opal.

Ethiopian Opals

Often new gemstone finds gain public attention through the extensive promotional efforts of mines or jewelry brands, hoping to recoup the enormous advertising expense in gemstone sales. In the case of Ethiopian opal, however, a surge in popularity can be attributed directly to consumers: opal lovers who appreciate these juicy jewels for the ways they are unlike their Australian counterparts.
Ethiopian opals are some of the most translucent ever discovered, perfect for gazing deeply. These jewels also light up with bigger flashes than their Australian sisters, making for a more dramatic appearance. Lightweight and more durable, Ethiopian opals are a joy to wear in jewelry. Inspired by this unique gemstone, Adam is on the hunt for the most enchanting Ethiopian specimens opal to incorporate into his designs.
Tulip Ring Ethiopian Opal
Ocellius Earrings Ethiopian Opal


The color of an opal might be clear, white, gray, or even black which is the most valuable variety. Fire and Ice Ring, as an example, features a black opal with blue, green, and violet play of color. “Through the design, I wanted the pavé diamonds to appear as if they had melted from the fire and beauty of this opal,” Neeley describes.

Out of This World

Scientists have found opal on a meteorite originating from Mars, a fact celebrated by more than just gem-enthusiasts. The geological conditions for the formation of this type of specimen are near hot springs. Scientists hope that examining the water content of Martian opals, like a time capsule, could give them some glimpse into past microbial life.

Caring for Opals

Opals are tougher than many people think, but it’s a good idea to give your jewel the day off if you’re working with harsh chemicals like chlorine or bleach. Intense heat or dramatic temperature changes are not appropriate for opals; it can cause fracture lines called “crazing”. GIA lists more information and cleaning tips for solid opals. If you’re unsure, just ask your jeweler about best care to keep yours radiant.

Legend and Lore

Opal is the birthstone for October. Superstition about opal-wearing by those born in other months was the unintended consequence of 1820s novel, Anne of Geierstein by Sir Walter Scott. In fact, for most of history, it had been considered one of the luckiest gems. Like the rainbow, which contains all of the colors of the spectrum, these gems have been thought to bestow good fortune. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that wearing one could protect blond hair from fading and add luster. Protection, enhanced eyesight, foresight, and even invisibility have also been attributed to this storied stone.
Interested in adding opals to your jewelry collection? Adam’s  jewelry always reflects unique, modern design and exceptional gemstone quality. Find something you love here or contact us with your questions.

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From his Laguna Beach studio, designer and goldsmith Adam Neeley pushes the boundaries of modern jewelry design. Born a gem-lover and educated at the prestigious Gemological Institute of America and Le Art Orafe, Adam has spent his life mastering the craft and art form of jewelry making and design. As a member of the American Jewelry Design Council, Adam is honored to share his expertise and passion with the world. His award-winning jewelry is celebrated by jewelry collectors, industry authorities, including MJSA and AGTA, and the Smithsonian Institution. We invite you to learn more by visiting our About Adam and Welcome pages.
“Australian Opals and Opal Jewellery.” Accessed October 11, 2016. https://www.opalsdownunder.com.au/.
“Opal Care and Cleaning Guide.” Accessed October 11, 2016. http://www.gia.edu/opal-care-cleaning.
“Opal Discovery on Mars May Be Key to Proving Ancient Life on Red Planet — RT News.” Accessed October 11, 2016. https://www.rt.com/news/272482-opal-mars-ancient-life/.