“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”- Naturalis Historia, Pliny The Elder, 23AD-73AD
Out of the myriad of stones I have knotted, strung, struggled with, and gawked at, the boulder opal strand I received last week to string, takes the cake for my most personally treasured stone. Gazing into the stones is almost hypnotizing because of the amazing colors that catch your eye.
I’ll be real with you: romance isn’t a current specialty in my life, (for now that’s beads!) But the Boulder Opal gives a sense of passion that can’t be explained by a picture. Seeing the mixture of spotted greens and deep neon blues, causes me to think of an ocean I’ve only found in my most pleasant dreams. The colors contrast within slates of brown, making them stand out to the extreme. To me the boulder opal is indeed precious.
There are many kinds of opals: “black”, “fire”, “wood”, “boulder”, etc,. They are an amorphous form of silica and water content can be up to 21%, though most range in the 6-10% range. Because of its amorphous character it is classified as a mineraloid, unlike the other crystalline forms of silica which are classed as minerals. The internal structure of precious opal makes it diffract light; depending on the conditions in which it formed it can take on many colors. Precious opals run the spectrum in color but the most common are whites and green.
For centuries cultures have seen desirable colors within the opal and have created their own understanding of what they signify. Pliny, the Roman naturalist and scholar, wrote about opals in the 1st century and described it quite genuinely. The Romans saw opal to be symbol of hope and purity, they called it cupid paederos, meaning “child as beautiful as love”. Early Arabians believed opals were gifts from heaven sent down in flashes of lightening. I know, what were they were thinking!? Obviously it was spherical particles formed from amorphous silica. Duh. In Australia, home to the boulder opal, the Aborigines believed that opal has been around since the beginning of creation. Cleopatra wore an opal to attract the attention of Marc Anthony and the Ancient Greeks credited opal for the power of seeing the future and receiving prophecy. We can see patterns of cultures referencing the boulder opal throughout history. I am not the only one hypnotized by the stone, but centuries of other civilizations as well.
Historical aside, not for extra credit: Opals got a bad rap for being unlucky back in the mid 1800′s and are still trying to lose that reputation today. What happened was a total misunderstanding: Sir Walter Scott published a novel called “Anne of Geierstein” in which the title character, a kind of enchanted princess, had a cursed opal. The novel was totally fictional but it became a kind of Oprah’s Book Club bestseller and European sales of opals dropped 50% in a year. And the opal has never quite lost it’s fictional “curse”. The Australian Opal industry has been lobbying for a century trying to change the opal’s totally undeserved reputation.
Full of effervescent color, the boulder opal is one of nature’s most remarkable gems and is indigenous to Australia. Preserved 60 million years ago, boulder opals are like rainbows. The free form shapes and patterns in the opal make each piece of jewelry unique. Boulder Opal is one of the few precious stones cut with the host rock as part of the gem. Boulder Opals are mined in Queensland, Australia and then cut and polished by hand.
For this 21 inch necklace I chose to knot it with size 10 black string and used a sterling silver fancy hook clasp.
Our collection of boulder opal handmade originals can be found right here.
We are Pyramid Studios in Downtown Ellsworth, Maine.
Our store hours:
Wednesday – 10am – 5:30pm
Thursday – 10am – 5:30pm
Friday – 10am – 5:30pm
Saturday – 10am – 4:00pm
Sun/Mon/Tue – Closed
Our web store is open 24/7 and can be located here: Pyramid Studios.