A Brazilian twist on a legendarily popular gem most associate with Mexico, Brazilian Fire Opal hails from the northeastern Brazilian state of Piaui, and is yet another captivating gem from one of the world’s premiere gemstone producing countries. Today, the Piaui State is increasingly garnering international acclaim for its Opals, with its quality favorably compared to Australia, arguably the world’s finest source.
Hardness 6 - 6.5
Refractive Index 1.370 - 1.470
Relative Density 1.97 - 2.22
While Brazilian Fire Opal doesn’t have the dancing colors you usually associate with Opals, its radiant beauty comes from its unique, fiery, golden orange-yellows, stunning clarity, and breathtaking brilliance. Optimal lapidary accentuates the innate beauty of Brazilian Fire Opal and every gem is finished eye-clean, the highest quality clarity grade for colored gemstones, with an attractive shape and overall appearance.
One of October’s birthstones, Opal is from the Greek ‘opallios’, meaning ‘to see a change’. Fire Opal, also known as Sun Opal, is aptly named for its transparent fiery oranges, reds, and yellows. The structure of Opals is unique and comprised of tiny spheres of silicon dioxide forming a pyramid shaped grid, interspersed with three to six percent water. It’s the refraction of light through the spaces between these spheres that produces Opal’s characteristic ‘play of color’. Fire Opal without play of color has its silicon dioxide spheres more randomly arranged. Treasured in the Americas since the time of the Aztecs, Fire Opals were once called quetzalitzlipyollitli, ‘gemstone of the bird of paradise’. Coveted by the Aztecs as symbols of intense love, such radiant gems were believed to have emerged from the primordial waters of creation. While both the Aztecs and the Mayas used Opal from the Americas in mosaics and for ritualistic purposes, most of these mines were only rediscovered in the 19th century.
Fire Opal is mainly mined in Mexico, but it also comes from Brazil, Ethiopia, Mali, Tanzania, and occasionally Australia. While Opal has been mined in the Brazilian states of Pará, Piaui, Rio Grande do Sula, and Rondônia since the mid-40s, production has always been very limited, making it difficult to secure. Orion Gems Mine Exploration are the main commercial source of Brazilian Fire Opal and are located in the northeastern Brazilian state of Piaui. From the state capital, Terezina, the mine is about 200 kilometers driving on a paved road, followed by another 50 kilometers on a grueling dirt track. Orion Gems Mine Exploration are an ecologically correct company and do not utilize any chemicals during mining, and takes care to ensure it does not pollute waterways or the environment. Brazilian Fire Opal is also one of the few gemstones that are not enhanced.
Durability & Care
A relatively durable jewelry gemstone, Brazilian Fire Opal (Mohs’ Hardness: 6 – 6.5) should always be stored carefully to avoid scuffs and scratches. Clean with gentle soap and lukewarm water, scrubbing behind the gem with a very soft toothbrush as necessary. After cleaning, pat dry with a soft towel or chamois cloth.