Opal is a gorgeous semi-precious gemstone that has been alluring people for centuries with its distinct beauty. It is famed for showcasing a vivid play-of-color that has often been compared to the galaxy, a rainbow and fireworks. The term ‘play-of-color’ can be described as an optical phenomenon that causes the gem to flash various hues and patterns when it is moved or due to a reaction with light. This characteristic makes each opal different from the other.
This stunning gem is closely related to the quartz mineral, and its chemical composition includes millions of tiny, amorphous silica spheres. These spheres cause the stone to diffract light and take on numerous colors from different angles. In addition to the size of the silica spheres, the proportion of other minerals mixed within the stone is responsible for the opal’s color. Hence, you can find this stone in a variety of hues, such as black, brown, pink, red, blue, white and more.
While green, white and blue-toned opals are commonly available, the ones that display black and red hues are extremely rare. Most opals are fairly opaque, but it’s possible to find some that are more transparent than the others. Some of the most popular types of naturally occurring opals are boulder opal, black opal, white opal, matrix opal, crystal opal and fire opal.
As with all gems, synthetic and imitation opals can be found in the market, however readily available and naturally occurring opals get more preference. Approximately 97% of the world's opal supply comes from Australia, and it’s also the national stone of the country. This gem is also mined in Mexico and several other countries across the globe.
There are not many gemstones that have folklores as rich as an opal does. Throughout the ages, opal was considered to be a powerful stone that induced mystical vision and enhanced creativity.
The Aboriginal tribes from the Andamooka region in South Australia believed that an opal was born from a rainbow that was brought to the earth by the creator of Dreamtime; a term used by Aborigines to describe the relationship between the natural, spiritual and moral elements of the world. The creator returned to heaven after he conveyed to mankind his hopes for eternal peace. The rock he stood upon absorbed all the colors of the rainbow and turned it into a beautiful opal.
The Romans associated opal with fidelity, hope and purity, while the early Greeks believed it could foretell the future. East Asians revered it as a sacred stone and the Arabs believed that opal came from heaven.
This stone’s popularity dwindled considerably when author Sir Walter Scott’s novel "Anne of Geierstein" was published in the year 1829. The story gave the impression that opal was demonic and wearing it would bring bad luck. It is believed that this caused the opal market to crash and the gem’s price dropped by almost 50 percent.
It regained popularity within a short period of time when Queen Victoria of England laughed at the superstitions that were associated with the stone. She and Napoleon Bonaparte were some of the famous admirers of opal. In fact, it is said that the Queen was so fond of the stone that she gifted them to her daughters as wedding gifts. Today, opal continues to lure people with its sheer beauty.
Hardness & Strength
Opals are delicate and score a rating of 5.5 - 6.5 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness, which means they are susceptible to scratches and breakage. Shallow crazing (surface cracks) if filled correctly will only make a small deduction in value. Fractures will drastically reduce their price and cracked opals are not suitable for jewelry. Additional care needs to be taken if you intend to wear an opal on a daily basis.
Opals are generally untreated, but enhancements are often done to improve their appearance and durability. While there are a number of methods that are utilized to bring out their play-of-color, sugar and smoke treatment remain the most common.
Usually, white, gray or black opals are subjected to the sugar method, which involves immersing the gem in a sugar solution and then in strong sulfuric acid. This process makes the flashes of color more visible.
The smoke method also delivers the same result, but the process is different. Here the opal is wrapped in paper before being subjected to heat and smoke. This causes the particles of soot to penetrate the surface of the gem, giving it a darker background color and elevating the play-of-color.
Some of the other opal treatments include permeation with resin, wax, colorless oil resin, plastic, and hardeners. The opals available on our site are not enhanced in any way.
Quality & Grading
The color of an opal plays a significant role in determining its value. In the case of this particular gem, this factor represents the number and clarity of different hues present, along with the play-of-color.
The more commonly seen hues include blue and green, while warmer tones such as orange, pink, yellow and red are rare. If more warm colors are visible on the opal, then its price shoots up. The presence of pink is highly valued in an opal, but pure red is prized even more.
Saturation, hue and tone are the components that determine an opal’s clarity. For instance, a light blue or greenish-blue opal will not be as highly valued as a bright, pure blue.
Clarity of this gem is also influenced by the degree of transparency, along with the absence or lack of inclusions. The naturally occurring flaws in an opal include fractures, sand, chips and sandstone between the areas of color, among others. Their effect on value is proportional to their effect on the appearance of the gem. The more visible they are, the more they’ll bring down the value.
Opals, unlike other gemstones such as emeralds and sapphires, are not typically faceted. They are mostly cut into rounded cabochons and are set into a variety of jewelry, such as opal earrings, bracelets, rings, necklaces, pins and brooches. This gem is also used for carving small figurines, pretty curios and other decorative objects.
This gem occurs naturally in a variety of sizes, and is typically measured in carats. During the evaluation of an opal, it is given a price 'per carat'. The overall carat size of the stone will then influence its value.
Based on its various properties, an opal can be further distinguished into the following categories of quality:
Milky with a high play-of-color, only the top 1% of remarkable opal stones belong to this category. They are opaque and surface clean.
This category comprises of the top 10% of opal stones. They are milky and display medium play-of-color. The gems belonging to this category are opaque and have very slight surface blemishes.
Top 33% of the available opal stones fall in this category. Milky and opaque in appearance, they display a low play-of-color. These opals also have slight surface blemishes.
This category includes the top 75% of available opal stones that are milky with no play-of-color. They are opaque and have surface blemishes.
Opals are one of the most commonly worn gems; however, they are delicate and require special care. Varying amounts of water, present in its composition, can evaporate and cause the stone to lose its gleam or even crack. Keep the following tips in mind to maintain its beauty.
- Extreme temperatures can harm an opal. It is essential to avoid hot or boiling water for cleaning. Also, care must be taken to keep it away from freezing cold.
- A damp, soft cloth and mild cleanser can be used for cleaning. But harsh chemicals, bleach or abrasive agents must be strictly avoided as they can lead to scratches on the surface.
- A soft bag made of cloth can be used for storing opals so as to maintain their shine and quality.
- During regular wear, the skin’s moisture helps to keep the stone from drying out. So if you intend to store your opal jewelry for an extended period of time then seal it in a plastic bag with slightly dampened cotton wool. This is one of the ways you can help the stone retain its moisture.
- Consider getting your jewelry examined by professional jewelers at least once in a year.
Opal is undeniably enchanting, and even William Shakespeare called it the "Queen of Gems" in his play "Twelfth Night”. Keeping in mind its various characteristics will help you recognize and appreciate the value of this charming gem.
Citrine, a cherished member of the quartz family, is perhaps the most frequently purchased yellow gemstone. Its name has been derived from the citron fruit, which resembles a large lemon.
Pure quartz is colorless, and traces of various elements are responsible for giving each type of quartz its distinct hue. Citrine owes its captivating sunny shades to the presence of iron. This alluring gemstone is available in hues that range from pale yellow and golden-orange to reddish-brown. Currently, the majority of citrine gemstones available in the market are actually other varieties of quartz (amethyst, smoky quartz) that are heat treated to get the desired golden-yellow color.
Citrine does occur naturally, however, is very rarely found. A natural citrine does not have visible inclusions or color zoning, which makes it extremely sought-after.
This gemstone has been around for centuries and was prized for its rarity. It was especially popular among the affluent class. Citrine was used by the ancient Romans for embellishing various types of jewelry and intaglio work. In the early part of the 20th century, during the Art Deco period, large faceted citrines were prominently used for creating fine jewelry items that highlighted the distinctiveness of that particular era. Even today its popularity has remained intact, and the gem has been coveted for its beauty and splendor.
Natural citrine is not common, and Brazil is its leading manufacturer in the world. Other important sources include Uruguay, Scotland, Madagascar, Spain, USA and Russia.
Cherished since ancient times, citrine is said to bring success and prosperity to the wearer. Owing to these properties, it is also called the ''success stone''. Citrine is believed to attract abundance in all fields, especially business. It is therefore often found in cash registers of shops, earning it the name ''the merchant's stone''.
Many believe that this radiant gemstone exudes positive energy and also facilitates mental clarity. Its ability to dispel all kinds of negativity further adds to its appeal. This property also ensures that a citrine never requires to be “recharged” or “cleared”. Believed to withhold the power of the sun, this luminous gemstone symbolizes positivity, growth and happiness.
In order to make the most of the benefits of a citrine, the ancient Greeks carved iconic images into them, Roman priests used them for adorning rings, while Egyptians wore them as talismans. Even today, a natural citrine is highly revered for all the qualities mentioned above.
Hardness & Strength
The golden-yellow variety of quartz, citrine, exhibits a remarkable luster and sparkles brilliantly when cut. It has been given a rating of 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness and is fairly resistant to scratches and durable enough for use in jewelry. Radiant and affordable, citrine is also a popular alternative to topaz and yellow sapphire.
Citrine in its most pure and natural form radiates a translucent yellow hue. The presence of iron oxide in the quartz is responsible for its captivating color. “Lemon quartz” is the name often used to refer to a naturally light-yellow citrine. A citrine, because of its color, is often mistaken for a yellow topaz.
Since natural and untreated citrines are extremely rare, amethyst and smoky quartz are frequently heat treated to obtain the coveted golden-yellow hue. Low temperature heat treatment (approximately 750 degrees Fahrenheit) results in a mild yellow hue, while high temperature (approximately 1700 degrees Fahrenheit) causes the amethyst or smoky quartz to turn into a deep orange to reddish-brown shade. This treatment is stable and is widely used for permanent color change. The citrines available at Angara are natural and are not enhanced in any way.
Quality & Grading
A natural and untreated citrine is significantly more valuable than other yellow-orange gemstones, such as tourmaline, yellow sapphire and yellow topaz. This gemstone is rare in its natural form and greatly sought-after by gem enthusiasts and collectors. There are several factors that determine the value of a citrine:
Color is the most critical factor that establishes a citrine’s worth. In its natural form, this gem is mostly pale-yellow to golden-yellow in hue with hints of smoky brown.
In comparison to lighter tones, a citrine which displays a deep color with reddish tints is more expensive. A reddish-orange hued citrine is typically referred to as ‘Madeira’ colored, after the renowned wine. In recent times, even the pale yellow colored citrines have become extremely popular because of their rarity.
Citrine is a transparent quartz with a vitreous luster. Most citrines are eye-clean, which means they have no visible inclusions. Color zoning may decrease its value as merchants look for citrines with a more uniform hue.
Like most quartz, citrine is available in large sizes, so it is possible to carve them into almost any shape. Round and oval are the most popular cuts for this gemstone, as they tend to maximize dispersion and color. Other frequently used shapes consist of trillion, cushion, pear, square and heart. Citrines with minor inclusions are used to make beads, and occasionally for carvings or cabochons.
This radiant gemstone comes in an assortment of sizes, and stones weighing up to 20 carats are readily available. Due to this reason, the price of a citrine is not influenced significantly by the carat size. This aspect makes them a wonderful choice for bold jewelry designs.
Based on these factors, a citrine can be graded into the following categories of quality:
The top 1% of extremely rare citrines belongs to this category. These gems display the eye-clean property, which means they do not have any inclusions visible to the naked eye. Heirloom quality citrines have a distinctive deep golden hue that makes them extremely sought-after.
This category includes the top 10% of citrines. These beautiful gems are also eye-clean and showcase a radiant golden hue.
In terms of quality, this includes the top 33% of the available citrines. They are yellow in color and have slight inclusions.
Light yellow in hue, this category comprises of the top 75% of available citrines that have slight to moderate inclusions.
Citrine is a relatively durable gemstone, but it needs to be treated with care to avoid scratches and other damages. Here are some dos and don'ts to ensure the long life of this lustrous gem.
- Store citrine jewelry separately to avoid contact and friction with other gems.
- Do not wear it while engaging in sports, rigorous outdoor activities or even household work.
- Avoid using cosmetic products like creams and perfumes when you’ve already worn your citrine jewelry.
- Keep away from harsh chemicals, especially bleach and acid.
- Use mild soap and water for cleaning, and wipe it dry with a soft cloth.
- Ultrasonic cleaners are safe for cleaning citrine jewelry.
- Do not use steam cleaners as the heat can alter the properties of this gemstone.
- Store your citrine jewelry away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.