It’s the stone that supposedly has so much sketchy juju (bad luck if it’s not your birthstone and all that). And yet, no designer seems able to resist making beautiful jewelry with it—and consumer demand for opal of every imaginable variety is feverishly high, from the limpid Ethiopian variety to the magnificent black opals of Lightning Ridge, Australia.
Opal is a nuanced stone, neutral in one lighting scenario, ablaze with rainbow streaks of fire in another. It’s the perfect metaphor for our equally mercurial moods.
There are spacey, robin’s egg-blue opals set in platinum and diamonds on jewelry’s highest tiers, and a panoply of pastel iridescence on the fashion side, often in the form of delicate stacking rings and cool-girl pendants for layering (think Sofia Zakia and Wwake). There’s also a burgeoning trend that involves boulder opals that display a hint of what might be described as jolie-laide streaks of brown—traces of the ironstone that once hosted the opal before it was mined.
An entire faction of indie designers is embracing these earthy elements in opals. “Gem quality” in this case is in the eye of the beholder, but when award-winning industry greats like Margery Hirschey and Brooke Gregson can see the beauty of it, maybe it’s time for everyone else to expand their definitions of what’s desirable!
Top photo: Orbit rings in 18k white gold with opals and diamonds, prices on request; Katherine Jetter