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The Opal

Opal is an atypical stone that invites dreams and fantasy stories. By leaning our gaze on it, we approve it, we imagine a world, a landscape, according to the lightings that sublimate it.

The fantastic changing game of the opal reflects the variations of emotions and states of mind of the people. To each his opal, his mood, his vision of things. Opals are like the emotions of man: always different and always new. Philippe Tournaire is particularly fond of this stone of character, which awakens our curiosity and charm us with its enigmatic and unexpected beauty.

In many cases, when one thinks of "opal", one thinks first of all of the superstitions which result from it, which are sometimes pejorative in connotation. In fact, we shall see from the following explanations that opal is regarded as the bearer of hope, love and purity for many peoples, since the dawn of time. All that nature can offer of splendor seems to be united in the luxuriant and varied reflections of an opal of quality: fire, flashes in the colors of the rainbow and the soft shine of the austral seas. Generating many legends and superstitions, this surprising stone knows a changing reputation throughout the ages and cultures.. 

Opal: small technical sheet and handling tips

Age of opal: Scientists believe that most opal deposits formed between 15 and 30 million years ago.

Crystal Formula of Opal: SiO2, nH2O. The opal is a hydrated silicon dioxide and has no crystalline structure.

Hardness: From 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale. For information, the scale of Mohs is a scale invented by the mineralogist Mohs and which aims to measure the hardness of a gem, ie its ability to resist scratching. Mark: The Mohs scale ranges from 1 to 10, the diamond having a hardness of 10, and the dry soap and talc a hardness of 1.

Cleaning the opal: Massage gently with a slightly damp cloth.

Cautions: Like all beautiful things, opal requires that we take care of it. Sudden changes in temperature can cause a cracking of the opal, which is composed of water. Be careful, therefore, for sudden changes from hot to cold, such as during ultrasonic cleaning.

Opal derivatives: There are synthetic opals on the market, but also doublets and triplets, generally composed of a thin layer of opal, synthetic or not. What distinguishes a real opal from a false one is the degree of uniformity of the reflections of colors. Looking at the stone in profile, if we see columns of colors abnormally uniform, it is a false opal. Also, if viewed from above, the natural opal shows reflections of colors in the form of combs, while the false opal will show reflections in the form of honeycombs alveoli which are also similar to the skin of the snake. 

Opal, water and fire colors

This "puzzle stone" as Philippe Tournaire calls it, was formed during sea level variations, which fills the cracks and cavities of the deposition site such as silica gel. The opal is composed of between 3 and 30% water and must therefore be handled with care. It is indeed a hydrated silicate which has the peculiarity of revealing reflections in the colors of the rainbow: like a drop of gasoline on the water. That is what makes it all singular. When such a color scheme takes place, it is called precious opal or precious opal. This iridescence of its own comes from the absorption and return of colors by the microbeads of silica that make up the opal. The more uniformly distributed the balls, the more intense the color scheme..

Conversely, when the balls have a random disposition, no set of sparkling colors appears. This is called common opal. Hence the singularity and the rarity of this stone with extraordinary reflections. The color scheme of the opals is always very different, depending on the color of the stone and how the light plays with it. Thus, there are several types of reflections, known as "harlequin", "peacock tail", "flash", "small dots"…

The value of an opal

An opal is judged according to criteria of beauty that are peculiar to each, according to his tastes and according to what the opal inspires us. On a more technical level, the opal is judged according to five distinct factors: the type of opal, the intensity of its color scheme, transparency, clarity and size. Diamond and opal trilogy pendant

The different faces of the opal

The opal can take any shape and knows many different designations. The 4 largest varieties of opals are listed below:

The black opal

The black opal can deploy a beautiful game of intense colors, on a dark background. Originating from Lightning Ridge, New South Wales in Australia, which is the world's leading source of black opal. They are also found in Queensland - Northeast of Australia - and in South Australia. This opal is one of the most coveted and rare in the world.

Boulder opal

The boulder opal (opal-rock) is the one that reveals a border of sparkling colors, between brown layers that constitute the parent rock of the opal. This bedrock can be either sandstone or a rock composed of iron oxide (ironstone). The contrast between the bedrock and the opal veins reinforces the intensity of its colors. The only place in the world where boulder opals are extracted is Winton County, Queensland..

The white opal

The opal white is transparent. It is the best known of the general public because it is much more frequent and easy to find, compared to high-end opal such as black opal, whose brightness is often more intense. It is found at Mintabie, Coober Pedy and Andamooka in South Australia and at White Cliffs in New South Wales.

The fire opal

The fire opal is a bright orange opal that does not necessarily show a color scheme. It can be carved with veneers, while opals with color scheme are often carved in cabochon or even retain their original shape to keep a maximum effect. It is found mainly in Mexico, in the states of Querétaro and Sonora, as well as in Mexico City. About 90% of the opals come from Australia. This country therefore produces the majority of black, white and boulder opals. Over time, the opal has never stopped fascinating cultures around the world. And each country has a special relationship with this bewitching stone. It is the journey of opals through the ages and continents that constitutes its history, oh so unusual. Pendant with 3 opals.

Opal through the ages

The origin of the term opal comes from the Sanskrit "Upala" meaning "precious stone". Later the Greeks called it "Opallios", meaning "see a change of color". The opal has always been honored by the orientals, who called it "Anchor of Hope". In ancient Greece, opals were as much valued as diamonds. And he was given the gift of predicting the future. In ancient Rome, it was called "the queen of gems" because it had in it all the colors of other gems. The opal embodied for them the symbol of hope, purity and love. They positioned it in 2nd place after the emerald, in terms of value.

In the Middle Ages, opal was used to cure eye diseases and later blond women used to wear hair accessories with inlaid opals, believing that these magic stones would prevent their beautiful hair from becoming gray. The crown of the Holy Roman Emperor contained a stunning opal, called "Orphanus". It was said that it preserved the honor of the Empire. Late 18th-early 19th century, the opal was also part of the crown jewels in France and Hungary. Napoleon offered to the Empress Josephine "the fire of Troy," a magnificent opal with luminous red reflections.

The opal treasures of the Hofburg in Austria are also famous: among them is the large collection of Princess Stephanie of Belgium: belts, bracelets, earrings, pins and necklaces in opal. The Queen Victoria collection is no less famous. Sovereign of Australia, home of the most remarkable black opals, the queen had access to the most prestigious stones. She carried it throughout her reign and offered it to her friends and daughters and granddaughters, advocating the symbolism of love and purity suggested by the opal. This became very much sought after because the Royal Court of England was then considered the fashion model in the world. In the nineteenth century still, although considered as lucky charm by the Queen, the opal was awarded a quite different reputation on the French side. Several theories would explain this phenomenon.

The most plausible being the following: the lapidaries and crimpers of the nineteenth century were penalized if they caused damage to the stones in the amounts. This having happened to them several times while manipulating the opal, they believed that this gem was a bad omen and therefore synonymous with bad luck. The popularity of the opal was, however, gradually rehabilitated, among others, by prominent figures such as Queen Victoria, and the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt, who wore sumptuous opals when she interpreted Cleopatra in 1890. Fortunately, a discovery in 1902 in New South Wales in Australia made it possible to overshadow this dark opinion of the opal. At Lightning Ridge, the miners took out a whole new form of precious opal: the black opal. The market for opal was then well-deserved. A few years later, the opal period saw its golden age during the Art Deco period (from 1920 to 1939): model-making artists gave preference to many stones because of their discreet charm.

Since the dawn of time and still today, the opal is a stone with riddles that does not risk to sink into oblivion. For many, it evokes a stone full of innumerable virtues. Legend or reality, free to everyone to believe. Whatever the case, the various legends relating to the opal and its virtues reinforce the fact that this enigmatic stone will always remain present in the minds of those who admire it. For 40 years, Philippe Tournaire uses the opal through timeless creations that put this exceptional stone in light.

As such, the Tournaire team offers workshops on discovering opal in which sublime opals are presented and can give rise to personalized creations. 

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