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Australia and opals are always associated with each other, but opals were known to the ancient world, thousands of years before Australia was discovered. The ancient Greeks and Romans obtained opals from India, Anatolia in Turkey, and later from Hungary.
This unique gemstone formed in a myriad of colours, and is the birthstone for those born in October. Its name is derived from the Indian (Sanskrit) word "upala"meaning "precious stone". The stone was introduced into ancient Greece in the 1st Century BC. The Greeks called it "opallios" a word derived from two others, the first gives us the words for opaque and optical, the second, gives us words such as alias and alter. Thus opal literally means "to see a change (of colour)".
Opals were highly prized and considered lucky because they combined the colours of all other known precious gems. However in 1829 Sir Walter Scott published his novel "Ann of Geirstein" in which a fabulous opal reflects the changing fortune of the heroine, and leads to her ultimate demise. So popular was the novel at the time of its publication, that this fictional tale directly led to the modern myth of opals being unlucky.
Opals were discovered in Australia in 1841 and exhibited in London at the Great Exhibition in 1851, but it was not until towards the end of the 19th century, that the fabulous opals for which Australia is famous were found in Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia.
Australian opals formed over millions of years when the great inland sea, that once occupied the centre of the continent gradually evaporated, the increasingly concentrated silica salts in the water permeated into the porous sedentary rocks below creating opal.
Cellini uses high colour opals, principally from the South Australian Andamooka field, and black opals from Lightning Ridge in New South Wales, as well as the brilliant orange fire opals from Mexico.