I can’t remember a time when I didn’t not know what an opal was. Even as a little girl I knew, perhaps because I’d heard the story of my mother’s first engagement ring so many times. I used to ask her to tell me it over and again – sad stories have always compelled me. The short version is as follows: boy proposes to girl: girl says yes: boy buys ring he can barely afford: girl loves antique opal ring: ring needs adjustment: jeweller damages ring beyond repair
The next time an opal ring featured in my life was during my teens. The wife of the vicar at the church we attended had one – an heirloom opal-diamond affair that shattered light into shards of captured rainbows every time she moved her hand. I think the fact she was so charismatic, not to mention artistic, intelligent, wise and beautiful made her engagement ring even more mesmerising for me. I wanted to be just like her. And I wanted a sparkly finger.
Opals (you won’t have to concentrate very long on this bit – my scientific prowess is up there somewhere just behind my sporting and mathematical gifts, so please forgive any inaccuracies or over-simplifications) are formed of sand, dust, silica. And they’re filled with fissures where air gets in and it’s those minuscule fractures that refract light.
When they’re cut, diamonds refract light. They’re stunning, and so much stronger than opals. But the multifaceted light of an opal is split apart in the defective heart of a stone formed in a desert. Who’d have believed that a place where life struggles to survive could be the source of such a gem? And who’d have believed that the faults that criss-cross that gem’s core could blaze with light-life that even diamonds cannot outshine?
The next time life seems arid, when difficulties and challenges leave me parched, I’m going to think about opals, those stones with broken hearts. And perhaps I should create my own opal-sparkly finger to remind me?