A Brief History of Opal
"And lo! The beautiful opal -
That rare and wondrous gem -
Where the Moon and Sun blend into one
is the child that was born to them"
- Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Due to its unique colour play and its own mysterious "life", the Opal has been subjected to superstition 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, and was known as "Cupid Paederos" - Child Beautiful of Love. The Roman Senator Nonius preferred exile rather than sell his valuable Opal to Mark Anthony for presentation to Cleopatra.
People of the Orient considered the Opal to be an "Anchor of Hope", whereas Arabians believed Opals to be magical stones which had fallen from the skies. The Medievil English writer, Batman, said that the Opal had many virtues, including the Power of Foresight. A curious belief evolved in Poland, Where in 1075, as mentioned in the Lapidarium of Marbodius, the brilliant stone was attributed powers to make a wearer invisible. Opals were thus named "Thief Stones", as criminals could use the gems to commit their thieving deeds unseen!
These early reference state back to 250 B.C. It is probable that these stones came from mines in Hungary (now Eastern Slovakia) at Mt. Simonka and Mt. Libanka near Presov, where production ceased in 1932. The mines could not compete with the supply and far superior quality of the Ausralian gems.
Queen Victoria so loved the Australian Opal and made Opal popular by presenting one to each of her children.
Breathtaking beauty, mysterious glow, unimaginable value - the attributes given the Australian Opal are countless and full of superlatives.
There really is something extraordinary, rare and quite intangible about the Opal - a special feeling no other gemstone can instil in an observer. It is a stone which conjures up mystical images within the depth of its flashing colours and sparkling brilliance. The Opal is a treasure, a magical looking-glass which lets us see the rare beauty of nature's own fireworks.
The Australian opal fields in what are now semi-arid deserts, were at one time under the sea, so opalised fossils are occasionally unearthed - opalised wood, prehistoric animal bones, sea creatures, full sea-shells, skin shells, sponges, fish skeletons and even stems of plants. Plesiosaurus bones have been mined at Coober Pedy, but all without heads!
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 picture of light", and later Shakespeare was to describe it as the "Queen of gems".