in his curious old book entitled " A Lapidary," written two centuries
and a half ago, gives a quaint description of this lovely stone. He
says, '' The Opal is a precious stone which hath in it the bright fiery
flame of the Carbuncle, the fine, refulgent purple of an Amethyst, and a whole
sea of the Emerald's green glory ; and every one of them shining with
an incredible mixture and very much pleasure." Boetius described it as
" the fairest and most pleasing of all other jewels, by reason of its
various colours." Cardanus says, " I bought one for 15 crowns, which
gave me as much pleasure as a Diamond of 500 aureos."
is a strange history given by Pliny of an Opal about the size of a
hazel nut, which was possessed by the Senator Nonius, and was valued at
.£20,000 of our money. Nonius, who was proscribed by Marc Anthony for
the sake of this gem, made his escape, carrying off the ring with him, as the sole relic of his fortune. He preferred exile with his Opal to living in Rome without it.
Opal is chemically a hydrous form of silica, and a great deal of the
mineral is quite unlike the beautiful variety used for jewellery.
Several kinds of Opal are indeed known to the mineralogist. Most of it is destitute of beauty, and is hence termed Common Opal. Other specimens present translucency but no colour ; these are distinguished as