Thursday, September 25, 2014

Black Opal

In the first century A.D. Pliny wrote of the opal, "... For in them you shall see the living fire of the ruby, the glorious purple of the amethyst, the sea green of the emerald, all glittering together in an incredible mixture of light", and later Shakespeare was to describe it as the "Queen of Gems".

Due to its colour play and "life", the opal has been subjected to many superstitions and myth . Opal was said to ward off diseases and for this reason was worn in amulets. In Roman times it was included in the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Opal, from the Greek, "Opallos", meaning 'to see a change (of colour)', is a formation of non-crystalline silica gel.

Millions of years ago, this gel seeped into crevices and cracks in the sedimentary strata. Through eons of time and through nature's heating and moulding processes, the gel hardened and can today be found in the form of opals.
Black opal is the rarest and most valuable type. It is generally found as a bar (or bars) of various colours forming natural water horizontals in dark grey to black "potch nobbies" or "nodules". The unique patterns are as complex as an artist's imagination.
98% of the world's supply of this radiant, dark lustrous gem is mined at only two tiny pinpoints on the globe - Lightning Ridge and Mintabie, Australia.
The world famous black opal field of Lightning Ridge was discovered in 1903 and is still producing many beautiful gems. The discovery of light opal in 1915 made famous the name of one of the most hostile and remote places on the Australian continent - Coober Pedy, the largest opal producing centre on earth.
Coober Pedy, an Aboriginal name meaning "White man in a hole", adequately describes the mines and miners' dwellings - burrows dug into the scarp, in order to escape the soaring temperatures of the day and the freezing winds at night.