7 Things You Don't Know About PotchJuly 21, 2014

Chances are you'll find an opal anywhere in Australia - and no one's pulling a leg.

On July 28, 1993, opal was made Australia's national gemstone. This came in late, as potch, as miners called it, were abundant in the arid regions. It was first discovered by Johannes Menge, a German geologist, near Angaston, South Australia in 1849. A potch rush followed, and in no time, the state decided to name this silica the state gem (of South Australia).

What is unique about opal is the colours it emits, red, blue, green, yellow, orange, black, brown, white, pink, gray, magenta, rose, olive, and slate. The dominance of one or a few hues depend on the conditions on which it is formed. Most of the world's supply of opal comes from Down Under, which is hardly surprising. But what is interesting is the myth behind it and the famous opals that the world knows. So here they are:

1. Opal was once considered an item of good luck due to its hues representing the other gems. The perception changed after the publication of Sir Walter Scott's "Anne of Geierstein", where the opal (in the novel) is said to carry supernatural powers. Unfortunately for the heroine, who had it around her neck, she died because of it.

2. Followers of astrology look at the opal with high esteem. It is the stone associated with the Libra and Scorpio, zodiac signs for those who are born from September 24 to October 23 and October 24 to November 23 respectively. This belief can be traced back to the Middle Age.

3. Around the time of the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, a huge, unpolished opal was found at the Eight Mile field at the Outback. It was named Olympic Australis, in honour of the quadrennial sporting event, and it is valued at 2,500,000 Australian dollars, which was the most expensive of its kind.

4. In 1954, Queen Elizabeth II made her first visit to South Australia. She was presented with the Andamooka Opal, discovered in a historical mining town from which this opal was named after. It has red, blue, and green shining, attached with diamonds as necklets. It was a gift that Her Majesty couldn't refused.

5. Flame Queen Opal is the most fascinating of its kind. It looks like a human eye, and depending from which angle one looks at, it can be blue and yellow or red and green. Discovered by Jack Philips, Walter Bradley and Joe Hegarty, this opal made its presence during the coronation of King George VI.

6. Halley's Comet Opal was discovered in 1986, the year when Halley's Comet could be seen from Earth. It is the largest uncut opal on record.

7. Galaxy Opal is discovered in northeastern Brazil in 1976. It's the world's largest polished opal, so it's not surprising that it is part of a private collection. The gem's bluish hue is streaked with green, yellow, and red, all of which create a spellbinding effect.

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