No two opals are ever alike.
Pick one up and you are mesmerized by the patterns and dance of light coming from within. This “play of color” is the result of water trapped in silica cells, created a million years ago in places such as Australia, Mexico, Nevada and Idaho.
The largest percentage of precious opals are mined from deep pits in Australia, including the most sought-after dark opals with backgrounds ranging from black to red. Opals with blue, purple and green “fire” are also prized for their color and transparency. Less precious are the “opalized” milky stones.
In Boulder opals from Yowah, Australia, the ironstone matrix produces interesting abstractions on the surface of the cut opal with names like harlequin, pinfire, flame and flash.
Some veins of opal are so thin that after mining and polishing, the opal is backed, then topped with a quartz cap — the “triplet.” This adds strength, protection and another diffracting surface.
Opals are often jewelers’ favorite stones. In February they’ll be off to Tucson’s huge gem show searching for that fire within, the essence of opals.
— Susan Laughlin
Barbara Smith McLaughlin, Stratham
Jennifer Kalled, Kalled Gallery, Wolfeboro
This article appears in the February 2007 issue of New Hampshire Magazine