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This October, Our Favorite Opals Are Full of Fire—And Nuance

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!


Azores earrings in 18k recycled gold with Australian opal doublets, $7,200; Original Eve

Shane Co. opal and yellow gold earrings, $360

Earrings in 18k yellow gold with 19.93 cts. t.w. opals, and rough- and full-cut diamonds, $8,500; Sylva & Cie


Ring in platinum with 11.56 ct. opal center stone, emeralds, and diamonds, price on request; Oscar Heyman

Ring in 18k yellow gold with 26.91 ct. Australian boulder opal and diamonds, $6,790; Lauren K.


Late-19th century pendant in platinum and yellow gold with 4.69 ct. black opal center stone, freshwater pearls, and diamonds, $36,000; M.S. Rau 

Heart Gypsy ring in 18k yellow gold with hear-cut opal, price on request; Brent Neale


Major Sun Sign Medallion in 18k yellow gold with opals, pink sapphires, and diamonds, $7,950; Harwell Godfrey


Sunburst bangle in 22k yellow gold and oxidized silver with opal and diamonds, $12,500; Arman Sarkisyan


One-of-a kind opal and diamond ear climbers, $6,390; Jemma Wynne 


Platinum ring with 7.26 ct. black opal and 1.15 cts. t.w. round Paraíba tourmalines, 1.55 cts. t.w. sapphires, and 0.76 cts. t.w. diamonds, Omi Privé; $66,000


Odette studs in 18k white and rose gold with Australian opal hearts and ombré pink sapphires, $12,800; Emily P. Wheeler


Graffiti pendant in 18k yellow gold and pink rhodium with Lightning Ridge opal, pink tourmaline heart, and diamond melee, $38,000; Katherine Jetter


Top photo: Orbit rings in 18k white gold with opals and diamonds, prices on request; Katherine Jetter


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