An opal is a delicate gemstone and is found in various colors from yellow to red. It is said that the best and rarest opal stones are those having a vivid burnt red-orange combination, the fire opal.
Fire opal is basically an American term used to describe all opals with a significant amount of red coloring. Fire opals are quite valuable, and are often confused with ‘Mexican fire opal’ which is a different stone that displays orange instead of red coloring.
Mexico is the place where most fire opal deposits are found in rock strata of the Mexican highlands. The gemstone lies mostly in cavities and crevices and is extracted in open cast mines. This gives rise to impressive canyons with 60 meter high walls and labyrinthine passages found in the mining areas.
Places where fire opal is found
There are also some countries like Honduras and Guatemala in USA, Australia, Canada, Ethiopia and Turkey that have fire opal mines. Brazil also boasts of fire opals; and it is its size that it boasts of here.
There are some gemstones that are as big as a man’s fist, which gives new avenues for the cutting of the stone. This is why Brazilian fire opals are today setting new trends in the world of gemstones.
The good quality fire opals are both clear and transparent, and can be cut into facets. These stones are very sensitive to stress and are best used in earrings, brooches and pendants. Those born in the month of October have the opal as their birthstone.
Features of fire opal
When you buy a fire opal you have to place emphasis on body color, transparency and play of color. As the fire opal is the rarest it is the most esteemed opal, it is best to view fire opals in the daylight, just before sunset and after sunrise – when its exceptional fire and color play are most favorable.
Good quality fire opals are clear and clean in clarity. However fire opals of lower grades usually take on a cloudy appearance. It is a known fact that opals are delicate gemstones; however its greatest weak point is its water content.
The fire opal, or any opal tends to crack and fade if left to dry. So if you live in a place with a very dry climate, or if you leave your opals in a dehumidified room, you will have to take some precautions with the gemstone.
Fire Opal Care
It is necessary to leave the fire opal in a tight plastic bag or sealed container along with a damp piece of cotton or fabric. This is to prevent dehydration of the stone as once its water content evaporates, the stone dehydrates. Moreover, it is this water content of the fire opal that makes the opal very sensitive to sudden changes in temperature.
As fire opals are soft, they also tend to scratch easily. This is why it is not advised to wipe the dust off the opal as this tends to reduce the polish of the stone. The solution for this is to clean the opal with a soft cloth. This helps retain to polish of the stone, and to keep it clean for you.
Copyright 2008 Paraiba International