We are all familiar with the show Phantom Of The Opera. Its full of romance and passion and the Phantom in the show lives in the sewers below Paris. The Opera call him the Opera ghost.
It is thought that Ethiopian opal is Hydrophane so it is formed differently to sedimentary opal and this allows for this unique ghost inclusion in these opals. It does not form in any other opals. Most are formed with smooth coverage inside the opal but the more rare ghosts are ones formed like bubbles or cloud formations and this is the best for opal collectors of Phantom ghosts.
The Opal is mostly transparent crystal opal on the outside layer and the inner ghost cloud like inclusion is inside the crystal shell of the opal. The Ghost phantom can be milky white to grey and black or even semi translucent in itself. It does not affect the overall colour of the crystal fire and sometimes it looks like the ghost can have opal colours but this is the crystal around the ghost that gives this effect.
As the opal is hydrophane the colours do vary on the ghost so it can be a yellow dull color and can change to green hues like the colours float on the ghost. Hydrophane means the tendency for an opal to absorb water when soaked in water or when in more humid conditions the opals changes colour after absorbing moisture from the air. Also when very dry the moisture leaves the opal and that is why it has reputation that the fire can change from milky white colour to brilliant sunset fire colours.
Some quartz in Africa also have Phantom ghost, these are clear quartz with inclusion of milky white deposit inside the quartz but has no colour like our opals. This is when quartz forms over an existing crystal that may or may not be quartz and hence the term phantom quartz.
It is rare, as the crystal has to form and then later an interesting thing happens. As chemistry changes and a thin layer of feldspar or other type mineral will form over the crystal and then conditions can change again and the original quartz continues to grow and the result is a phantom quartz. Sometimes two different minerals will crystalize.
This process stakes millions of years and can help explain the process for Ethiopian phantom opals, as sometimes the ghost will be surrounded by different layered colours from dark brown to pastel light brown or grey colours
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I spoke with my Ethiopian opal miner and he says Phantom Ethiopian opals are only found on top high cliffs and runs horizontal white bars of acidic white ash from volcanic eruptions over millions of years.
His assumption is that this white ash which is acidic, is somehow formed when the opal does, and a as ash is lighter it forms in the middle
His mine is lower on base of mountain so he doesn’t get any Phantom opals.
Sounds like the most possible explanation that white volcanic ash forms these phantom Opals
I tried to find some information about these phantoms but looks like no one has done research on these phantom inclusions.
So far it seems like feldspar ,which is group chemicals inclusions of aluminium silicates of soda and or potassium or lime
If so this would explain the ghostly white appearance of the phantom
Another theory is they are Zeolites ,which are natural white salts or white clays composed of hydrated silicates of sodium and aluminium
It could be combination of the above and formed under different conditions or chemical reactions.
Further research is required