Knowledge Centre > Gemmology > Gemstones > Opal

Opal: The Physical Manifestation of a Rainbow

birthstone of October opal

antique opal diamond five stone ring hatton garden berganza
Victorian opal and diamond five stone ring, circa 1900.
Ref: 23578

The birthstone of October, this month we are celebrating opals. Opals have been treasured and revered for centuries. The word comes from the ancient Greek and Latin words Opallios and Opalus meaning “to perceive a colour change.” Ancient civilisations believed that opals granted the wearers powers of foresight and allowed them to see into the future. They were often regarded as the luckiest and most magical of all gemstones because they can exhibit all colours and have been used in antique, vintage and ancient jewellery for centuries.

Displaying a fascinating 'play of colour' optical phenomenon, precious opals are a unique gemstone with outstanding qualities. The optical effect is caused by a combination of diffraction and interference of light through the internal structure of the opal. Precious opal is composed of microscopic silica spheres which are stacked leaving gaps for light to travel through.

The result is a rainbow of colours unique to each gemstone making the patterns and colours collectible and desirable. Opals occur in a range of body colours from white, black or grey, bright orangey red and a pale watery colour. The most precious opals show strong colour contrast and generally have a dark body colour with a vivid array of colour play. They are usually cut en cabochon which displays their optical effect beautifully.

If you are lucky enough to have opals as your birthstone, treat yourself this month to a unique opal design. Our entire collection is available to view online, in our Hatton Garden showroom or by zoom appointment. We are open Monday to Saturday from 10am until 5pm.

Opal and diamond coronet cluster ring berganza hatton garden
Opal and diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1950.
Ref: 11421
Carved opal ring Wilhelm Schmidt Guiliano berganza hatton garden
Carved opal ring attributed to Wilhelm Schmidt for Giuliano, English, circa 1890.
Ref: 22433
Black opal and diamond cluster ring hatton garden
Black opal and diamond cluster ring, circa 1925.
Ref: 25272
antique opal diamond ring berganza hatton garden
Antique opal three stone carved ring, English, circa 1900.
Ref: 23585
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Updated 16/04/2024 at 10:34AM

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