White opal is a fascinating gemstone that has captivated people for centuries. This precious stone is known for its unique play of colors and its striking beauty. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about white opal - its characteristics, formation, symbolism, and much more.
What is White Opal?
White opal, also known as milk opal, is a type of opal that has a white to light gray body color. It is composed of microscopic silica spheres that form a three-dimensional network, which diffracts light to create a play of color. The opalescence can range from a subtle sheen to a vibrant rainbow of colors, depending on the quality of the stone.
Formation and Mining
White opals are formed from silica deposits that settle in the cracks and crevices of rocks. Over time, the silica deposits build up and form a solid mass of opal. The best quality white opals are found in Australia, particularly in the fields of Coober Pedy, Andamooka, and Lightning Ridge.
Characteristics of White Opal
White opal is a relatively soft gemstone, with a hardness rating of 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale. It has a specific gravity of 1.98 to 2.20 and a refractive index of 1.44 to 1.46. The opal can range in transparency from opaque to translucent, and it can have a vitreous or waxy luster.
Different Types of White Opal
There are several different types of white opal, including:
- Crystal opal: a type of white opal that is transparent to semi-transparent and has a high level of opalescence.
- Milk opal: the most common type of white opal, which has a milky, translucent appearance and a lower level of opalescence.
- Boulder opal: a type of white opal that is found in ironstone boulders and has a unique pattern of opalescence.
- Matrix opal: a type of white opal that is embedded in ironstone or sandstone and has a distinctive pattern of opalescence.
Historical Significance of White Opal
White opal has been valued for centuries by different cultures around the world. The ancient Greeks believed that opals provided protection from disease and gave the wearer the power of foresight. The Romans also prized opals and considered them a symbol of purity and hope.
Symbolism and Meaning of White Opal
In many cultures, white opal is associated with purity, innocence, and hope. It is also believed to have healing properties and can help to calm the mind and soothe the emotions. Some people also believe that white opal can enhance intuition and psychic abilities.
How to Identify Genuine White Opal
There are several ways to identify genuine white opal, including:
- Check the color: Genuine white opal will have a white to light gray body color. If the opal has a different color, it may be an imitation.
- Look for play of color: White opal should have a play of color that is visible from different angles. If the opal does not display a play of color, it may be an imitation.
- Check the hardness: White opal should have a hardness rating of 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale. If the opal is too hard or too soft, it may be an imitation.
Uses of White Opal in Jewelry Making
White opal is a popular gemstone for use in jewelry making. It is often used as a centerpiece stone in rings, necklaces, and bracelets. It is also used as an accent stone in combination with other gemstones, such as diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds.
Caring for White Opal
White opal requires gentle care to maintain its beauty and prevent damage. It should be stored in a soft cloth or pouch to protect it from scratches and other damage. It should also be cleaned regularly with a soft cloth and mild detergent to remove dirt and oils.
Pricing and Value of White Opal
The value of white opal can vary widely depending on its quality, size, and origin. The best quality white opals can fetch prices of several thousand dollars per carat, while lower quality stones may only be worth a few dollars per carat.
White Opal vs Other Opals
White opal is just one of several different types of opal. Other types of opal include black opal, fire opal, and boulder opal. Each type of opal has its own unique characteristics and value.
White Opal Around the World
White opal is found in many different countries around the world, including Australia, Mexico, and the United States. Each location produces opals with unique characteristics and value.
White opal is a stunning gemstone that has captured the hearts of people around the world. Its unique play of color and striking beauty make it a popular choice for use in jewelry making. Whether you are a collector or simply appreciate the beauty of gemstones, white opal is a stone that is sure to impress.
- What is the difference between white opal and black opal? White opal has a white to light gray body color, while black opal has a dark body color. Black opal also tends to have a higher level of opalescence than white opal.
- How can I tell if my white opal is genuine? You can tell if your white opal is genuine by checking its color, play of color, and hardness. Genuine white opal will have a white to light gray body color, a visible play of color, and a hardness rating of 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale.
- What is the most valuable type of white opal? The most valuable type of white opal is crystal opal, which is transparent to semi-transparent and has a high level of opalescence.
- Can I wear white opal every day? While white opal is relatively soft and can be prone to damage, it can be worn every day with proper care and maintenance.
- What is the best way to clean white opal? White opal should be cleaned regularly with a soft cloth and mild detergent to remove dirt and oils. It should be stored in a soft cloth or pouch to protect it from scratches and other damage.