The Fire Opal is a truly spectacular gemstone. It is a very rare type of opal as it is completely translucent which showcases its fabulously rich and vibrant colour. It can be faceted to enhance the lustre whereas most opals are cut en cabochon, i.e. curved on the top. No other gemstone displays this depth of colour – a really deep, lush orange-red.

Historically, there was quite a lot of superstition surrounding opals which had an undeserved reputation for bringing the wearer bad luck. However, thanks to a large discovery of opals in Australia in 1870, where most of the world’s supply are mined, they became more popular and began being used in all forms of jewellery design. Queen Victoria led the way in wearing this beautiful gemstone. By Edwardian times, when the stunning piece you can see here was made, opals were extensively worn as fashion pieces.

Opal is the birthstone for October and is, unsurprisingly, Australia’s National Gemstone. The reason why these can be expensive stones is due to the cost associated with mining these precious gems.

The black opal is the most rare and valuable of these type of stones typically showing a strong lightening blue-black colour but, despite the name, come in a variety of wonderful intense and rich colours.

This stunning Fire Opal and Diamond Pendant, currently for sale at Heirlooms Jewellers, has a round brilliant cut diamond in a rubover collet setting, with rose cut diamonds on the bale, all set in gold and platinum. I bought it privately because is a splendid example of how the Edwardians designed jewellery.

Originally published in the Purbeck Gazette 5th December 2022