Mexican Fire Opal

Here at Columbia Gem House, we refer to this material as Mexican Fire Opal, or MFO for short. MFO is a gorgeous fiery color that reflects its beautiful country, heritage, and cultural significance. As of today, the Mexican Fire Opal is considered to be Mexico’s national gemstone.

Can you tell us a little about the source of this material?

Mexican Fire Opal can be found in a variety of locations, a few known include: the states of Queretaro and Hidalgo, among others. The Queretaro mines are one of the most historically significant and have been a known source for Fire Opal since 1835. The gems you will find at Columbia Gem House though are from the state of Jalisco in Mexico. Due to its sensitive nature, we have worked to find a source location for Mexican Fire Opal that suits our drying process to ensure stability of the gem.

What kinds of sizes, shapes and cutting styles can be found?

Small pebbles of this Opal are found in lava flows rich in silica. Typical sizes you will find in Mexican Fire Opal range from 0.5 carats to 5 carats. Some rare gems have been found as large as 50 carats in size.

We cut as small as 2mm round melee gems, as well as larger standard ovals, rounds, hexagons, emerald cuts, pears, trills. Beyond these, we offer some creative signature cut styles such as Radial Cushion Cuts and Cathedral Cuts, and of course, a variety of unique cabochons.

Is this material typically enhanced in any way?

Our Mexican Fire Opal has no treatments whatsoever! The only process this gem goes through outside of cutting is a drying process, which our team has developed over decades to produce cut gems that will remain beautiful for years to come. Continue reading to learn more about how (and why) we do this.

Are there any unique characteristics you can share about this material?

One unique characteristic is how it is formed. Mexican Fire Opal is formed in ancient volcanic geographies. Within the volcanic rock cavities, water gets trapped in silica-rich lava, and under the high volcanic temperatures, that same superheated water-encapsulated lava then transforms into this burning-colored gem.

Since water is a part of the composition of Mexican Fire Opal, it can sometimes be instable depending on the specific origin. Because of this, our team at Columbia Gem House takes special precautions in both sourcing and production to ensure the stability of the gems we sell. First, we thoroughly dry all rough before cutting, then go through a second drying process with the finished cut gems to eliminate any possibility of crazing (fine spiderwebbed cracking) or hydrophaning (turning a transparent gem opaque). By taking these additional steps, we can ensure the color and stability of our Opals.

Not surprisingly, the fiery color of this Opal is another uniqueness in the gem world because of its vivid intensity. Unlike other Opals, most Mexican Fire Opal is faceted to add brilliance. The standard color for MFO is considered orange, but the full spectrum includes colors from red to orange to gold, with an almost dayglo intensity of color. It’s not uncommon for Mexican Fire Opal to also display a beautiful play of color, an optical phenomenon of fiery dancing colors when light enters the gem. Both transparent and translucent.

What are the gem specs of this material? How do we know if it is authentic?

The material we source at Columbia Gem House is backed with our Gem Trust guarantee. This means you know it’s an authentic gemstone and that we will share all available information with you. You can find additional gem specifications below:

Gem Type
Mexican Fire Opal
Fair Trade Level
2
Origin
Mexico
Color
Yellow-Red to Vivid Deep Reds, with and without play of color
Treatment
No Treatment
Hardness (Mohs Scale)
5.5
Transparency
Transparent to Translucent

How do I care for my gemstone?

Opal is one of the softer gemstones and requires some extra care by the wearer. Don't wear it when you know you will be doing hard physical work. If they are hit hard, they can chip. To clean fire opal, use warm water and detergent. Scrub with a soft brush and rinse with warm water. It is not necessary to store your fire opal in water or oil when not wearing it. Do store it separately in a soft pouch where it won't get damaged or scratched by other jewelry.

What can you tell us beyond the facets? I want to know more…

Between the thirteenth and fifteenth century, Aztec and Mayan Indians were the first to discover Fire Opal. These glowing fiery gems were called “quetzalitzlipyollitli”, also known as the “the stone of the bird of paradise”. During the period of the Aztec Empire, these gems were used in the jewelry adorned by their people, but also in other art forms like mosaics, sculptures and even rituals. This gemstone was even linked to their temples, which were built to honor the fiery orb that rules our days, the sun. When the Aztec Empire disappeared, so did most of the appreciation for Fire Opal. It was not until sometime in the 1800’s when interest in the material was reinvigorated.