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Jewellery Education:TANZANITE

Slideshow Image 1Look again, your eyes might have fooled you the first time. Catch a flash of emerald green? Aquamarine blue? A gleam of rhodochrosite pink? Or just a spectacular array of colours so diverse you thought your eyes must be fooling you? October's birthstone, the ever-changing opal, corresponds perfectly with a time of year that is, quite often, ever changing, from rain and even snow one day to sparkling sunshine the next, as one season eases into the next. Opals range in colour from clear to black but all contain within them the dazzling array of colours that makes them opals: its internal structure actually causes the diffraction of light to display as colour change to the human eye, allowing an ever-changing rainbow of colours to play from within this silicate-based mineral.

Opals are the birthstone of October as well as the gemstone for the 14th wedding anniversary; they are also the national gemstone of Australia, which supplies 97% of the world's supply of gemstone-quality opals. Ancient Romans thought opals were symbols of hope and purity, while ancient Greeks thought they carried powers of prophecy and foresight; early Arab cultures thought that opals fell from the heavens in flashes of lightning, which is how they achieved their "opalescence". The truth is that the colour play within a gemstone-quality opal is based on the movement of the water that makes up 5-10% of the stone's interior between the carefully-arranged silicon dioxide spheres are arranged. The trapped water creates the colour play under various lighting circumstances.

Incredibly, only 5% of mined opals are of any value and of that 5%, only 5% are gemstone quality...meaning that only 0.25% of opals mined make it