Opal, A Fiery Muse
One of the original “precious gemstones,” opals have been celebrated and coveted through the ages. For their lively light-play and rainbow colors, opal is unlike any other gemstone. One of four so-called phenomenal gemstones, they exhibit a unique light interaction called opalescence, created by perfectly ordered spheres of silica, which diffract light with a magical flourish.
Of the enigmatic gem, Pliny the Elder described, “a play within them that they equal the deepest and richest colors of painters. Others… simulate the flaming fire of burning sulfur and even the bright blaze of burning oil.” The light phenomenon he so poetically described is what modern geologists call “play of light”. This enchanting affect can include all colors in the visible spectrum.
Origin: Australia’s Legacy and Modern Finds
The gem has strong ties to the continent of Australia. Throughout the 20th century, upwards of 95% of all opal was mined in Australia. In 1994, however, a dazzling discovery revealed opals of magnificent beauty in Ethiopia, a location never before known for such deposits. The initial discovery was modest in size, but subsequent Ethiopian opal finds in 2008 and 2013 were delightfully abundant, challenging Australia’s nearly century-long dominance of the market.
“Australian Opals and Opal Jewellery.” Accessed October 11, 2016. https://www.opalsdownunder.com.au/.
“Opal Care and Cleaning Guide.” Accessed October 11, 2016. http://www.gia.edu/opal-care-cleaning.
“Opal Discovery on Mars May Be Key to Proving Ancient Life on Red Planet — RT News.” Accessed October 11, 2016. https://www.rt.com/news/272482-opal-mars-ancient-life/.