Fire Opal Gemstones - Gemstones of power and vivacity
In the lavish world of opals none is as unique as the fire opal. In ancient India and Persia, and also among the civilizations of American Indians and Central America, they were viewed as symbols of the most fervent of love. They say that only the waters of paradise could have bubbled over and formed such a vivacious gemstone which is the fire opal. The Aztecs and the Mayas were besotted with this gemstone and they used it in their rituals and also made lovely mosaics out of it. At that time they called this magnificent gemstone, quetzalitzlipyollitl, which literally means "the stone of the bird of paradise". However, at one time, the knowledge of this magnificent gemstone, which was passed down through several generations of natives in Mexico, somehow went into oblivion. It was not until the year 1835 that the people of Mexico finally remembered the adorable gemstones which were hidden in the highlands of the country. They started systematically mining the places where it used to be found, and gradually the gemstone finally took the glorious position that it once held. Today, the fire opal gemstone has been elevated to a position where it is the national gemstone of Mexico.
The most vivacious fire opal deposits in the whole world are found in Mexico. Throughout the highlands of Mexico, you will find large rock strata that contains these opals, and the largest deposits are found near extinct volcanoes of these highlands. The gemstone lies hidden in crevasses and cavities in the mountain, and with only a few exceptions, the mines use the open-cast mining technique to bring these fiery gemstones out of the earth. This kind of mining has led to the development of huge canyons, with some having walls of up to 60 meters in height, and there is a large labyrinth of passages that wind though these lands due to this mining technique.
There are many other countries which have deposits of this fiery orange-red gemstones, and these include Guatemala, formerly known as Honduras, the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Turkey and Ethiopia. However, these other sites bring forth gemstones which are of little or no significant economic value. In Brazil the situation is slightly different; many years ago, near Campos Borges, located in the Southern Brazil State of Rio Grande do Sul, in one of their agate mines, fire opals with colors ranging from orange to yellow were found, with some of them having a brown suggestion.
These Brazilian stones were found to have an exceptionally beautiful color, which usually had a slightly milky transparency. Their color was said to be very expressive when in orange, and there were other varieties which had a yellow to light red tincture. What sets these stones aside from the rest is the fact that they were found in very large sizes. There were stones that were as large as the fist of a grown man, and this feature opened up a wide array of the way in which they could be worked and processed to come up with fascinating gemstones. Today, the Brazilian fire opal is making its own mark in the world of gemstones.
A gemstone of power and vivacity
Jewel connoisseurs all over the word find themselves being easily beguiled by the warm and fiery glow of fire opals. This is a fiery orange tint that automatically draws the eye to it. Like all other opals, the fire opal, is made of silicic acid, which has a very high concentration of water; the fire opal derived its names from the color, which resembles the flames of a fire. The color of fire opal is caused by the presence of minutes trances of iron oxide. This gemstone has a hardness value of 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale, and because of this relative softness, this is a gemstone that has to be laced in a protective setting so it does not accidentally get damaged by hard knocks, especially when worn as a ring.
However, fire opals are not the same; there are those which are called common fire opals, which, are either cut into cabochons or faceted depending on their transparency qualities. There are those which are exceptionally valuable, and which have an extremely vivacious color, and have a gaudy color display which is typical to all opals. However, fire opal takes a position among the top gemstones in the world, whether they do have the play or color or not.
The fire opal gem will definitely gibe a feeling of well-being and warmth to even the most notable critics of the forces which come from gemstones and the energies that they have. When considering gemstone therapy, opals are said to intuitively command the attention of people who are trying to work on a certain aspect of their personality. This means that the fire opal is a gemstone that will help in the free flow of feelings and also help in opening up blockages in the energy flow in the body. Lovers of this gemstone say that it has the ability to give stamina, energy, will-power and courage to anyone who wears it. The practitioners of this therapy say that the forces in the stone remove all old and outdated way of thought and give room for new thoughts to be manifested. The psyche of the wearer benefits from the positive effect of the fiery orange-red color, bringing about a profound feeling of harmony, peace and warmth. For those born in the zodiac sign of Aries, the fiery opal is said to bring about a lot of luck.
Dry environments produce durable fire opals
As far as their transparency permits, fire opal gemstones will either be faceted or cut into cabochons; the cabochon is said to be the best shape which brings out the rich and wonderful reddish-orange fiery glow of the gemstone. The oval cut is said to be the best cut in order to bring out the best nature in these gemstones. The raw Brazilian fire opals are. However, cut into many other types of shapes, because their large size allows the gemstone designer and cutter the freedom to work and play with the probable shapes.
Opals are not easy gemstone to work, with even if they have a relatively low hardness. When the cut is being set up, he or she must pay great attention to the way in which the stone gives of the best display of colors. Similarly, when working on the gemstone, the cutter, when working the raw stone, must take care that the gemstone does not come close to heat, and so should the setter, when placing the gemstone in its base setting. Waster in fire opal is unevenly distributed in the crystals and if it is subjected to extreme temperatures it may break in the same way that glass will break when extremely hot liquids are poured into it. Actually, when the raw stone are brought up from the ground, they have a chalky white substance across the surface, which shows that the stone has been dried, thereby losing water and cracking and becoming cloudy at the surface.
This ageing process is what makes the fire opal susceptible to breaking and this determines how the gemstone will be handled. However, an experienced cutter will know, from the origin of the stone, just how durable the fire opal will be. The expert cutters know very well that the localities where the stones are found will determine the water content that the stones have, and therefore affect the durability of the gemstone. As a rule, they say that the drier the location, then the less water content the stone has, and therefore it is more durable.
Fire opal has poor tolerance to extreme heat and, just the same, it is also very susceptible to attack by acids, alkaline solutions and sharp items. Conditions that are unfavorable make the opal to lose its moisture content, and this will make the crystal get a milky appearance, due to the numerous cracks that will appear in the crystal. It should not, like any other opal, be exposed to long periods of high illumination from artificial or natural light. The fire opal loves to be put on a lot, and this helps it to maintain its moisture content from the frequent contact with the wearers ski, and also from the moisture in the surrounding air. Fire opal, like all other opals, should also not be brought into contact with cosmetics. After being worn for a long time, fire opals will develop a layer of matt, and it has to be polished again, for it to regain its luster.
This is a gemstone for people who have a positive outlook
The three criteria that are used to determine the value of a fire opal are the body color, the color of play and the transparency of the stone. A stone that has a lot of fire and high transparency, and also has a very deep and intense red color in the body of orange base, will be the most expensive. One of the rarest fire opals, and therefore highly valued is the one that has a deep red-orange fire; these types of fire opals are the ones that come from Mexico, which also have a very strong play of color.
When fire opals are cut into cabochons, they are highly valued since they show a better play of colors than that which is shown by the faceted counterparts. The gems, have a glow that radiates in colors ranging from orange to red, and these are the gemstones that are loved by active people who always approach life with a positive attitude. The vigor is derived from the fiery warm color of the stone, and it fills the wears with all the joys that can be found on earth; it opens up the sense to experience the true beauty of nature. Fire opals exemplify this aspect since they are truly works of immense beauty created by Nature.
The Mexican Fire Opal
Now this has been said to be the most valued fire opal ever, and it is only fair that you take a look at it in a little more detail.
When you go through the tourist sites in Mexico City, you will not hear the opal mentioned in whispers; this gemstone is openly sold as one of the main attractions of tourist in many cities in this country; it would be a shame to go to Mexico and leave without having a piece of this fiery gemstone to take home with you. This has been the norm throughout the years. There are very few Americans who believe their eyes when they see the vast arrangements of fire opal being offered for sale in the markets of Mexico. Most Americans associate the fire opal with Australia, and when they find it in Mexico, they are taken by surprise. Although Australia produces more fire opal than Mexico, that which comes from the latter has a higher value and it has come into its own. This is the reason why the term fire opal is appended to the name Mexico, so that buyers can know that it is a special type of fire opal, different from that which commonly comes from Australia. However, you should not expect to get the very high value Mexican fire opal being sold on the streets, so if you are looking for one to make a great piece of adornment, then you should go to respected and established gemstone dealers and jewelers.
The famed balls of fire
When in their best form Mexican opals have a cherry-red or flaming orange color, which is uniformly distributed in the stone and does not have iridescent streaks, flecks or patches of color commonly found in fine Australian opal. This is the main reason why the term "fire" is apt, when describing this type of opal is not congruous, since it is used to refer to the play of color and not the actual body color of the gemstone. In any case, those which are found to have higher transparency are usually cut into faceted stones which do not display this play of color very well, like the cabochons do.
This does not mean that the Mexican opal does not show the color play that is common to the Australian opal, which is most suitable for cutting into cabochons, which is considered to be the standard cut for most opals. One German cutter says that the top color-paly that is exhibited by opals from Mexico rivals that which is shown by opals from Australia, the only difference being that the Mexican variety, which also go by the name Conta Luz Opal, seem to array their color play against a background of orange color as opposed to white. When considering opals which have a deep body color, whether they are cut into cabochons or facets, the Mexican opal is very different displaying an intense dayglo orange and red tints that are not seen in any other opal.
The frustrating crazing factor
Like all other forms of opal, the Mexican opal will crack as time goes by. It is not easy to tell how much of the stone will undergo this breakage. Connoisseurs of opal agree that this feature, also known as crazing can be very frustrating. However, they also say that this feature is sometimes exaggerated, and they say that it can be avoided as long as the stone is put through very tough screening processes.
The German cutter goes further and says that the stones have to be put on a mild heat radiator which has been set to 80 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of 10 days. If the stone develops crazing, then it is rejected, but if it does not, then it will be used, even though this is not a guarantee that the problem will not occur in future. The cutter says that about 10 percent of the stones that make it through this test will still develop cracks when they are put through the cutting stage, or when they are being worn. If the gemstone has small white dots or large spots of milky color, then it will most probably crack in the future. When you are buying opals on the street, you should look for these tell-tale features which will tell you if the stone may crack in the future.