History of the Mexican Fire Opal
The first people to discover the Mexican fire Opals were the Aztec Indians of Mexico and later on Europeans learned about it when the Spanish conquistadors came back with this wonderful gemstone. The Aztec Indians believed that the fire opals originated in the waters of paradise and used them for their religious celebrations. For a long time thereafter, everyone seems to have forgotten about it until in 1835 the Mexicans once again started mining for this precious stone which is now considered as the national stone of Mexico and the birthstone for the month of October. The Mexican plateau which has many extinct volcanoes are said to be threaded with opal rock and is found in abundance in the rocks and canyons of the plateau, which is usually mined above the surface.
Being lighter in weight than the normal opal, the Mexican opal has only one color in its body and does not have flashes of light and a spectrum of colors you find in other opals. Its colors vary from the very bright orange to a muted reddish orange and are precisely calibrated with a brilliant cut.
The Characteristics of the Mexican fire Opal
The opal that is mined today was formed in volcanic rock millions of years ago and deposited in vacuums that were left by the formation of gas bubbles in rock fissures. As silica solidifies from a gel to tiny spheres with water being trapped in them, the light that passes through the water and breaks into a myriad of colors forms the stone which is called the opal.
The fiery colors that play across the opal are distributed across the stone, even though the body of the stone itself can be transparent and white, reddish or black. The clear white stone is called the crystal or jelly opal while the dark colored opal is known as the black opal and is said to be most valuable of the lot.
How to select the best Mexican Fire opals
Look for the best and most durable opals which are said to be in one solid piece without any fractures.
Never buy opals that are a combination of a slice of good opal inserted between two other pieces of material which is not very valuable.
Be ware of manufactured opals which are only fragments of opal encased in clear plastic or glass and can disintegrate when rubbed with soap and water.
Opals can be bought in beautiful settings such figurines of animals or carved into forms of birds, shaped into domes or polished cut and generally mounted in rings, necklaces, earrings and pendants.
Opals like any other stones, should not be treated roughly which will cause it to crack. It should also be kept away from high temperature and gently rubbed with some light oil to keep it moisturized.
Where to buy Mexican Fire Opals
Although the stone itself is hard, it is not an easy stone for a cutter to work with. Great attention must be paid to the direction in which the colors play and keep the moisture in as otherwise this stone tends to crack. An expert in opal gemstones will be able to tell you from where it was found, how durable it will be. One sure factor however is that the drier the place, the hardier the stone will be.
The best place to buy the genuine Mexican fire Opal is obviously in Magdalena Mexico where opal vendors compete with one another to offer their wares in tiny bottles filled with water containing the rough and sometimes the polished stones. Prices are reasonable but you must bargain since they will always start with a high price.