“Fire opals are breathtaking! That color and glow!” proclaims Pamela Huizenga (whose “Stingray” brooch is pictured, above). An artist whose mediums of choice are unique and distinctive stones, Huizenga poetically describes a fire opal’s internal play-of-color as “A passionate fire, smoldering through the stone’s surface.”
Called quetzalitzlipyolliti ("stone of the bird of paradise") by the Mayans and Aztecs, who used it in their ceremonial rituals; fire opals get their intense hues of orange and red from traces of iron oxide that have seeped into the super-hydrated silicic acid, from which opals are formed. Those Mesoamerican cultures believed that only the waters of paradise could create a gem imbued with such vitality, and they revered them, as such.
Katherine Jetter, who’s built her reputation creating of some of the world’s most beautiful fine opal jewelry (check out her collier of superbly-matched, oval-cut, faceted Mexican fire opals, pictured above), points-out that fire opals comprise only 2-3% of the world’s opal, which limits production, so she’s found that “the more spectacular and intense colors are few and far between, in the overall rough that is mined.”
Not surprisingly, there's a whole lotta hoodoo surrounding fire opals. Some of these include providing clarity and purity of thought, thereby uncluttering a confused or muddled mind (I'll take two!); promoting creativity, sexual energy, and passion; and revealing one’s inner truth (i.e., hopes, dreams, desires, and ambitions).
It’s the “lifeforce” that draws Katey Brunini to the fire opal (as with K Brunini Jewels’ “Chains of Love” ring, above) when sourcing them. “There has to be something electric about the stone. Something unspeakable. Something magic. When I shop opals, I’m guided by feeling and no other parameter.”
As regards precious jewelry, there are two types of fire opal – the free-form “jelly” variety, with its play-of-color; and the transparent variety known for its intense hues.
When I asked Arunashi’s Arun Bohra (who designed the clever “Bee Hive” earrings, above) to pick his favorite type of opal, he didn’t hesitate. “Fire opal, because they come in such great free-form shapes. Their curves and the fire in them – it’s everything I need!”
It’s the idea of strolling around town, featuring a piece of precious jewelry that’s been built around something resembling a partially-chewed Jolly Rancher that really puts a smile on my face. And if you get right down to it, that’s what wearing jewelry should do – put a smile on your face. If it doesn’t, then either you're wearing the wrong jewelry, or your doctor needs to reevaluate your meds.
Get into it!
CREDITS: (clockwise from top left)
Arunashi – “Bee Hive” earrings featuring fire opal (26.06cts) and diamond (1.61cts) set in blackened 18k gold – $37,800
Katherine Jetter – 16” Collier (with hidden clasp) featuring 37 faceted oval-cut Mexican fire opals (54.11cts) set in 18k gold – $68,000
Kimberly McDonald – OOAK pendant featuring a cabochon fire opal matrix, claw-set in 18k gold frame with recycled diamond pave – $15,475
Chopard – Limited-Edition Le Monde des Animaux “Collier de Tigre Royal” featuring a fire opal ‘face’ on a ‘robe’ of white diamonds (105.51cts), with black diamonds, brown diamonds, yellow diamonds, orange diamonds, and four pear-shaped moonstones, set in 18k gold and 18k white gold
Tiffany & Co. – Blue Book Collection ring in 18k gold featuring a cabochon fire opal (10.54cts), yellow diamonds, and faceted fire opals
K Brunini Jewels – “Chains of Love” Twig ring featuring a Mexican fire opal center stone (2.79cts) flanked by pink tourmaline cabochons (7.38cts), set in 18k rose gold – $15,860
Nicholas Varney Jewels – OOAK “Vine” bracelet in 18k gold and white gold, set with clam pearl (XXcts), fire opal (95.00cts), and diamonds (14.01cts) – $390,000
Fred Leighton - Estate Collection multi-strand torsade necklace of fire opal (700cts) with enamel and gold clasp – $5,000
Michael John – 18k white gold two-finger ring featuring a 'Polar Bear' in pave diamond (4.12cts), jumping between two Icebergs of clear fire opal (33.77cts)
Cartier – “Dragon Mystérieux” watch of 18k white gold featuring one faceted cushion-shaped fire opal (23.77cts), in a setting of onyx, coral, and diamonds, with two emerald eyes. Manufacture mechanical movement with manual winding, caliber 9981 MC, with mystery hour and minute display
Martin Katz - 18k white gold ring featuring one cabochon fire opal (13.18cts), surrounded by 354 diamonds, 14 green Tsavorite garnets, and 179 orange-red sapphires, on a double diamond band
Victor Velyan – Bracelet featuring Mexican fire opal (14.60cts) and diamonds (1.10cts) set in 18k and 24k gold with signature patina – $36,800
Pamela Huizenga – 18k gold “Stingray” brooch featuring a Mexican fire opal (14.56cts) with sapphire eyes (0.24cts) and pave diamond body (3.94cts)
Lydia Courteille – OOAK “Frog” bracelet in 18k gold set with Mexican fire opals (24.22cts), orange sapphires (18.15cts), yellow sapphires (12.45cts), and tourmalines (0.10cts), with hinged knees – $110,200