Australian Opal Beads are some of the most beautiful and unusual gemstones in the world. Fine opals display what’s called a “play of color,” a phenomenon where a rainbow of different colors flash inside the stone. Most of the world’s opals are found in Australia. Because we buy beads in volume, we always offer affordable beads and beading supplies at the Bead Traders.
Play of Color
Opals are famous for their play of color, an effect that is caused by the internal structure of Opal beads. Unlike quartz, opal is not a crystal and is considered a mineraloid, a mineral-like substance without a crystal structure. Opals are made up of silica and water, and it is the high water content--up to 20% in some stones--that contributes to opal’s colorful show. Silica spheres inside the amorphous stone catch the light and reflect it back. The spheres are arranged in a lattice structure and the distance between the spheres determines what colors will be present in the stone. The brightness of the fire is graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the brightest.
Varieties of Opals
Black opals are the rarest and most precious of the Australian opal beads, with black stones with red flashes being the most sought after. White or light opals with green, blue and orange or yellow fire are more common. Sometimes thinner, lower quality opals are combined with another material such as onyx or glass to create a doublet or triplet opal. While these combinations can be very pretty, they are not as valuable as pure opals.
Although Australian opal beads are available in a range of shapes and sizes, most opals are cut and polished into cabochons, which are large, single, rounded stones used to decorate items such as statues, sword hilts, boxes and chalices. Opals have a hardness value of 5.5 - 6 on Moh’s Scale and are considered fragile, so they need to be set in a protective setting.
Most of the world’s precious opals come from Australia, and most of those are mined in the Coober Pedy region. The world’s largest opal, called "Olympic Australis," was found in this area in 1956. Olympic Australis is almost a foot wide and weighs 17,000 carats. Although 90% of the world’s opals have been found in Australia, they do occur in other regions, and NASA reported in 2008 that opals have been found on Mars.
Opals in History
The name ‘opal’ come from the Roman word ‘opalus,’ which is believed to have come from the Sanskrit word ‘upala’. The Romans valued opals above all other gemstones, and they had a good reputation until the 19th century when Sir Walter Scott used an opal talisman with supernatural powers in one of his novels. Their luck changed in the early 20th century when opal was designated as the birthstone for the month of October.
The Australian opal beads available at the Bead Traders are covered by our Three-Part Value Pledge of value, quality and authenticity. The beads we sell are the best quality available at the best price we can offer, and if we need to make a substitution, we always send you beads of higher quality rather than lower. When you are looking to put a little color in your life, try Australian opal beads from the Bead Traders.