Fire Opal - A Gem To Warm Your Heart

The Fire Opal is a variety of opal that has a bright red, bright yellow or bright orange background colour. It is a unique form of opal found mainly in Mexico - where it is the national stone - and gets its name from its fiery background colour.

This pair of Fire Opal earrings at Ogden of Harrogate is a fine example of this most warm-hearted of gems.

Fire Opal earrings - stock no. 63-87-173

The colour itself comes from fine traces of iron oxide. But, with a hardness of between 6 and 6.5 on the Mohs scale (diamond tops the list at 10), the Fire Opal is among the somewhat sensitive gemstones which require a protective setting, especially when worn as a ring stone.

They were admired as symbols of the most fervent love in ancient times, in India and in the ancient Persian kingdom, and among the peoples of Central America and the Amerindians. It was believed that a gem that bubbled over with vivacity to such an extent that the Fire Opal could only have been created in the waters of paradise. The Mayas and Aztecs loved this gemstone and liked to use it in mosaics and for ritualistic purposes.

They called it quetzalitzlipyollitli, meaning the 'stone of the bird of paradise'. 

Very highly prized Mexican Fire Opals, such as the stones below, are excavated in open-cast mines in Queretaro, Mexico.

However, the stone can also be found in Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, the United States, and Australia.

Play of colour, body colour and transparency are the three criteria which determine the price of a Fire Opal. The more transparency and 'fire' it has, and the more intense the deep red of its body colour, the more valuable it will be. 

Said to be the world's finest uncut Fire Opal, a 998-gramme gem called the Fire of Australia, below, went on permanent public display in 2017 for the first time since its discovery more than 60 years previously.

Fire of Australia is on display at the South Australia Museum

Valued at well in excess of £500,000, the stone is among the largest known high-grade opals in the world, according to the gem's owners, the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, Australia.

"The Fire of Australia is around the size of a softball … and shows all the colours of the spectrum," museum director Brian Oldman said at the unveiling of the display.


March 07, 2020 — Chris N