This is just a stone. Not a photo of a stone with a Hubble Space Telescope image pasted over it. Not a hologram made inside some piece of glass. Not a portal to another dimension. Just a stone.
It’s like some spacetime wizard captured a piece of the Universe and trapped it inside.
The Contraluz Opal
The stone is an opal. A “very fine American contraluz opal found” in Opal Butte, a mine in Oregon, USA,
Auction house Bonhams sold it in May 2014 for around $20,000.
It weighs approximately 119.0 carats and measures 46.0 × 44.0 × 10.1mm. The gemstone is a “clear, transparent crystal body having a fine, firey play-of-color that is gem quality. The piece has a botryoidal jasper formation which forms a unique inclusion.”
All of Nature’s splendour seems to be reflected in the manifold opulence of fine Opals: fire and lightnings, all the colours of the rainbow and the soft shine of far seas. Australia is the classical country of origin. Almost ninety-five per cent of all fine opals come from the dry and remote outback deserts.
Numerous legends and tales surround this colourful gemstone, which can be traced back in its origins to a time long before our memory, to the ancient dream time of the Australian aborigines. It is reported in their legends that the creator came down to Earth on a rainbow, in order to bring the message of peace to all the humans. And at the very spot, where his foot touched the ground, the stones became alive and started sparkling in all the colours of the rainbow. That was the birth of the Opals.
It has been more than 100 years since opal was found in Oregon. When the discovery was made public in the 1890’s miners flocked to Opal Butte, eager to get a piece of the action for themselves. When it was discovered that the supply of material at Opal Butte was limited, commercial mining operations shut down and the site became the province of rockhounds. While this was true years ago, the site since had to close the site to rockhounds at the request of the new land owners. The land has changed hands a number of times in the past six years. The new land owners are no longer able to provide a site for digging.
Opals around the globe
The contraluz opal is found worldwide, only a tiny percentage is precious. Each location is idiosyncratic, with different base colors characteristic of different regions.
Australia is the primary source and known for its whites, blacks, boulder, and jelly.
Mexico and Oregon material are similar, mostly jelly in water clear to white and yellow through Nehi orange found in Rhyolite matrix, primary sources for contra-luz.
Brazil produces slightly harder precious white opal and much common fire opal for faceting, usually hazy yellow to light orange, often large.
Peru — common blue opal — some greenish, usually seen as beads.
In late 2008, NASA announced it had discovered opal deposits on Mars.
Opals form on all continents of the globe and have been sought after worldwide since ancient times.
Whereas, the Australian opal fields are founded upon sedimentary geology, opals found outside of Australia are predominantly volcanic in origin.
Sea Plankton share the same chemical composition as common opal. Consequently, opal is being deposited on the deep ocean floor where dead Plankton sink and collect everyday.
Since the 12th century AD, right up until the early 19th century, world markets were supplied with precious opal found at the Dubnik mines (now in eastern Slovakia, once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire).
The Aztecs had first mined opal in Central America by the 16th century. Some fine pieces were sent back to Europe by the Spanish Conquistadors who also worked the deposits. The occurence of precious opal throughout Mexico and Honduras is found in a belt of volcanic rock stretching all the way from Canada. Coincidentally, most of the opal deposits on both the North and South American continents are situated along the Continental Divide. Including the first major modern discoveries which were made some time after 1851 in Mexico’s Querétaro state. However, the discovery of White Cliffs opal field in 1889 saw Australia become the world’s largest opal producer by the turn of the 20th century. Mexico and Brazil have remained important second tier commercial producers ever since. Honduras, USA, Canada and Indonesia have been niche producers for more than a century.
At the dawn of the new millennium; Ethiopia has emerged as a first tier producer with huge prospective reserves of opal. Potential opal deposits have even been identified by NASA on the planet Mars and Stanford researchers propose to use opal to decontaminate nuclear sites.