Opals fall into three subgroups: the precious opal (which boasts the most magnificent display of refracted colours), the common opal (which does not display the colour refraction), and the yellow-red fire opal. While the origin of the opal’s name is unclear, many think it comes from the Sanskrit word upala, which means “precious stone”, or from opalus, the gem’s ancient Latin name. Ancient cultures believed that opals fell from the sky during thunderstorms and held lightning inside them, making them the most precious and powerful stones of all. While about 95% of the world’s opal production comes from Australia, Ethiopian opals (sometimes called Welo opals) have been steadily growing in popularity since a discovery there in the mid-1990s, thanks to the stones’ vivid play-of-colour and affordable pricing.
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