Opal is a mineraloid gel formed many millions of years ago in the fissures in rocks. Precious opals – such as black and Ethiopian opals - are distinguished by their combination of milky to pearly opalescence and their attractive play of many colors. They are very rare and highly prized. Common opals like the pink opal do not exhibit this play of colors, but can be very highly polished. Fire opals, famous for their yellow, orange, or red hue, are unique in the lush world of opals.
Van Cleef & Arpels’s Ethiopian opals come from the Wello region. The chosen background color is generally white or crystal. The Maison obtains its black opals from Australia and favors a dark background and harmonious display of blue and green. In Peru, Van Cleef & Arpels selects the most exceptional pink opals. Fire opals, on the other hand, come directly from Mexico. Here again the Maison is looking for the purest, the fieriest color.
The name opal comes from "upala", a Sanskrit word meaning precious stone. The Mayans and Aztecs loved fire opals and used to call it "quetzalitzlipyollitli", the stone of the bird of paradise.
Opal is seen as a “stone of happy dreams and changes” and is also said to favor luck and fidelity. It is the gemstone for the 14th wedding anniversary.
Maintaining your opal:
Opal should not be exposed to any sudden temperature changes. It also must be protected from detergents that could dry out the gem. Van Cleef & Arpels recommends storing opal jewelry in a fabric-lined box alone or separate from other harder jewelry items.
Discover the fascinating radiance and the large range of colors of Ethiopians Opals through the School of Jewelry Arts' podcast.