Mexican fire opal is a variety of opals and is easily identified by its orange-red color. As the name suggests, most of the material comes from mines in Mexico and a handful of other areas. Their coloration ranges from the typical shades of fire. Most of the material lacks the internal play of color but there is material that exhibits internal fire as you can see from the images below.
There are two major types of fire opals, precious and common. Precious fire opals contain the beautiful display of iridescent color flashes that we know as a play of color. Common fire opals, referred to as fire opals, don’t display a play of color. Sounds simple enough, right? There are three other fire opal varieties:
- Matrix Fire Opals: These stones are dispersed throughout their host rock or the rock they grew inside of.
- Contraluz Fire Opals: The name comes from the Spanish language and translates to “against the light.” These precious fire opals have a play of color that seems to float inside the specimens from behind.
- Cantera Opal: This Mexican fire opal is in a matrix with speckled pink rhyolite. They’re typically cut into egg-like shapes.
While basic fire opal is a relatively affordable stone, with many specimens averaging about $10 per carat, those sporting a lot of color play and unusual in size can reach over $ 10 thousand a carat. Mexican fire opals can be cut as faceted stones, cabochons, or free-form carvings, which brings out the internal play of color.
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Where To Find Mexican Fire Opal
The majority of commercial fire opal is mined in Central Mexico. Most of the stones labeled “Mexican Fire Opal” come from there, but any stone meeting the identifying characteristics goes under the same name.
Of the 25 different opal varieties, the most significant fire opal specimens are mined in Magdalena, Jalisco, home to Mexico’s largest site. There are almost 300 opal mines within the region.
The most significant Mexican fire opal deposits in the US are in Oregon. Juniper Ridge Opal Mines are known for containing some excellent specimens.
List of Mexican Fire Opal Colors
While shades of orange and orange-red are the most prized colors, Mexican opal can be acquired in other colors. For example, you’ll see clear nodules with an internal play of color, reddish browns, and light yellows are also common.
Mexican fire opals are defined and known for the phenomenon referred to as “play of color.” A play of color means the stone possesses spots, sparkles, flashes, or patterns of different pure colors that surface when the stone is held at varying angles.
The best colorful opal specimens possess an intense medium orangish-red color and a strong play of color.
Orange and yellow stones are more affordable and abundant. Regardless, any color that is naturally saturated and uniform is bound to be valuable.
Transparent Fire Opals with little to no visible inclusions are incredibly rare and are high-dollar. These specimens are often used to make earrings.
Are Mexican Fire Opals Valuable?
Fire Opals are valuable and often reach high prices within the international gemstone markets. As with any stone, a fire opal’s value fluctuates depending on its overall appearance, the presence of an internal play of color, base coloration, brilliance, and translucence.
However, some stones display color zoning, which is an uneven distribution of color, which lowers the stones’ general value.
How Much is Fire Opal Worth?
Depending on the hue, tone, and saturation, plus the presence of “play of color” will determine the overall value. Fire opals can vary in worth from as little as $10 per carat up to over $10,000 per carat. Market-driven factors will also influence the values based on current events and economics. Don’t forget to consider the supply that comes on the market each year. If the mines can’t produce high-quality stones then prices will drift higher.
How To Care For Mexican Fire Opals
Like any opal, Fire Opals have high water content, so it needs to be protected from rapid temperature changes, intense heat, and prolonged exposure to strong lights. It’s best to store loose fire opal and jewelry in felt-lined containers that keep them from making contact with hard surfaces.
You can clean these opals by gently applying a wet or dry microfiber cloth to the surface and making gentle circular motions. It’s ok to use trace amounts of dish liquid and warm water to wash the opal, followed by a thorough rinse.