History Of Opal

What is the history of Opal? The name given to opal was derived from the ancient Greek and Latin languages.The Greek Opallios and Latin Opalus, which both mean “to perceive a color change”. The first known opal relics were located in a cave in Kenya. Geologists believe that these opals originated from Ethiopia around 4000 BC. Centuries later it is amazing that only in 1990 miners and consumers rediscovered Ethiopian Opals all over again. Like many gemstones opals were used for jewelery and amulets typically paired with other gemstones. Similar to today opals show off beauty, status and wealth a fashion trend that hasn’t changed for centuries.

history of opal1900 Hungarian Royalty uniform displaying crystal opal

Hungarian Opal History

Hungary was one of the major opal producers with two locations in Dubník and the Tokaj Mountains, near the village of Telkibánya. Precious opal and a special transparent yellow-orange common opal called honey opal were mined here. However since the end of the 18th century production from Hungry has slowed and nowdays is mostly non-existent.

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Australian Opal History

Luckily for opal lovers high grade opals were discovered in Australia. The black opal that was found was originally thought to be fake or treated as the opal was much brighter than Hungarian opal.However as buyers became more comfortable and more black opal was produced Europeans particularly the Germans became the largest buyers. Since the late 1800’s, Australia has dominated production of opal with over 90% output market share.

history of opal

Ancient civilisations believed that opal could bestow the wearers powers of foresight the ability to see into the future. One of the most famous was Gemstone Philosopher Gaius Plinius Secundus also known as Pliny the elder

history of opal

Opal Markets

The first recorded market for opal was the Romans. As a rich and powerful empire they used their new found wealth to spend on beautiful items that showed off their status.Opals whose colors alter with each shift of light was considered exceptional when compared to one colour gems like pearls or diamonds. It is understood that the majority of these opals came from Hungary which produced crystal opals.

Mark Antony the famous Roman general appreciated opal and of course Cleopatra. It is believed that he coveted an opal possessed by a fellow Senator known as Nonius as the bright lights reminded him of nights spent with Cleopatra. The Senator refused to sell the stone supposedly worth 2,000,000 sesterces or (US $80,000) fleeing Rome leaving behind his home but leaving with his most highly prized possessions his head and opal.

The fable also says that one Roman Emperor presented to trade one-third of his kingdom for just a single Opal. Opal has been used in the crown of kings including France, in fact the Emperor Napoleon offered his Empress Josephine a brilliant red opal surrounding with radiant red flashes referred as “The Burning of Troy.” Queen Victoria reignited the trend in modern times becoming devotee of opal wearing opals throughout her rein.

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