An opal and diamond set pendant necklace the pendant set with two large graduated opals, each in a border pavé set with small round brilliant cut diamonds, the link collet set with a small round cut peridot, the hinged bale also diamond set, stamped PLAT, to a trace link Theo Fennell chainFeatured in Lyon & Turnbull's Jewellery, Watches & Handbags auction on 4th May, 2017 An opal and diamond set pendant necklace
the pendant set with two large graduated opals, each in a border pavé set with small round brilliant cut diamonds, the link collet set with a small round cut peridot, the hinged bale also diamond set, stamped PLAT, to a trace link Theo Fennell chain
Featured in Lyon & Turnbull's Jewellery, Watches & Handbags auction on 4th May, 2017

Ethiopia to Australia

Today, Australia may dominates the opal mining market, with specialists believing South Australia produces more than 90% of the world's precious opal. But the precious stones finds its roots in another continent. 20th century anthropologist Louis Leakey discovered in Kenya what is believed to be the earliest known opal artifacts, which were dated back to Ethiopia, 4 000 B.C.

Muse for poets and writers

''For thy mind is opal.'' - William Shakespeare

''The sky was pure opal now.'' - Oscar Wilde

''There are as many worlds as there are kinds of days, and as an opal changes its colors and its fire to match the nature of a day, so do I.'' - John Steinbeck

The fiery and iridescent qualities of opals have long inspired writers. The history of opals in literature takes us all the way back to Rome 75 AD, when scholar Pliny compared opals to ''the deepest and richest colors of painters'' and described how their appearance simulated ''the flaming fire of burning sulphur and even the bright blaze of burning oil.''

All in the name

And it was the Romans who gave the opal its name, from the Latin ''opalus'' meaning ''precious stone.''

It's a kind of magic

For the Romans, the opal was a symbol of love and purity. Only the rich and powerful could afford to own opals. One Roman in particular, Marc Antony, had a penchant for opal. It is believed that he gave an opal worth 2,000,000 sesterces to his lover, Cleopatra.

The Greek believed opals warded off diseases, whilst Arabic legends describes how opals fell from the heaven in flashes of lightening. In Europe, during the Middle Ages, the opal was believed to protect eyesight. Blonde women would wear opals to preserve their hair colour.

From Queen's of Europe to the Fire of Australia

Opals were a favourite of the French monarchy. They were set in the Crown jewels of France and Napoleon presented his Empress Josephine a red opal that was named "The Burning of Troy.

Although they had fallen out of fashion around the 19th century, Queen Victoria, brought back the opal. With the public looking to the Queen for fashion inspiration, opals were once again popular as Victoria wore opals throughout her reign. The Queen's aunt, Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, gave an opal ring to Queen Victoria in 1849 which had been previously owned by Queen Charlotte since around 1810.

Queen Victoria's daughters also adorned themselves in opals. It was during Victoria's reign that opal fields in Australia were rapidly being discovered and increasingly mined.

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Here, Queen Elizabeth II can be seen wearing the Andamooka Opal, which she was presented by the South Australian government during her post-Coronation tour of 1953-54.

This year, the world's finest uncut opal, a 998-gm gem called the'' Fire of Australia'' has gone on permanent public display for the first time since its discovery in 1946. Estimated to be worth over $675 000, the stone is the world's largest known high-grade opal in the world. The stone, which was discovered by miner Walter Bartram at the Eight Mile opal field in Coober Pedy, is now part of the South Australian Museum's collection.

The necklace featured will be part of Lyon & Turnbull's Jewellery, Watches & Handbags auction on 4th May, 2017. Check out the full catalogue here.

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