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October Birthstone: Opal

October Birthstone: Opal
" There is in them a softer fire than the ruby, there is the brilliant purple of the amethyst, and the sea green of the emerald - all shining together in incredible union.  Some by their splendor rival the colors of the painters, others the flame of burning sulphur or of fire quickened by oil."
~ Roman philosopher and Naturalist Pliny the Elder, about the opal
Luna Australian Opal and Diamond Ring

Luminous, delicate, and magical, this month's birthstone has been appreciated and revered for centuries. 
The earliest known opal artifacts date back to almost 4000 B.C. in Kenya. Early Indians believed that opal was their "Goddess of Rainbows" who turned herself into stone to escape the advances of the other gods. Arabic legends say the ore falls from the heavens in flashes of lightning; ancient Greeks believed opals were the tears of Zeus, and gave their owners the gift of prophecy and guarded them from disease.  In the Middle Ages, the opal was known as the "eye stone" due to a belief that it was vital to good eyesight. There is even lore that blonde women were known to wear necklaces of opal in order to protect their hair from losing its color. 

Opals form when water carries sandstone deep into the ground in environments like Australia's desert-like outback, where heavy rains alternate with arid periods. When the water eventually evaporates during the dry season, tiny deposits of silica are left behind. Over time, this silica hardens into the luminescent ore we know today. It can take 5 to 6 million years for this natural process to take place!  The vast majority of opal gemstones are mined in Australia, where it serves as the national gemstone of the land down under. 

Ninety percent of all opal found is milky-white in color, with lines of brilliant greens, oranges, and blues. Subsequently, most opal jewelry is created with this milky form of the stone. There are a wide variety of types and colors in the opal family, most-well known being the boulder opal, the yellow-to-red hued fire opal, matrix opal, and the most valuable of all, the black opal. The flashing of multiple hues in an opal is known as "play of color," and the brightest and most varied of this phenomenon increases the rarity and value of the opal.