Texas is the second largest state in the United States of America and has had a long love affair with Australia’s national gemstone, the Opal. The state, which is second largest not just in area and population but also in economic climate, has always had a deep appreciation of Opals. However, it wasn’t until their capital city, Austin was gifted a beautiful large Opal from its sister city Adelaide in Australia, that the buzz about Australian Opals boomed state wide.
Over the decades, the United States of America have received a vast array of incredible gifts from foreign countries as a gesture of friendship; the Statue of Liberty was gifted by the French in 1886, Japan sent 3020 cherry blossoms to Washington in 1912 and China even gave the country two Giant Pandas to represent the growing relationship between the two countries. Although somewhat of a lesser known gift, the city of Adelaide gave their American sister-city, Austin a beautiful large Opal to commemorate their relationship.
In 1986 both Adelaide and Austin marked the 150th anniversaries of their foundation as separate states from their respective countries, which lead to the decision to link the capital cities together as sister cities. The riverside cities envisaged that the bond would not only deepen cultural ties and encourage public awareness of their tourist attractions, but also promote visits between the people of the two cities. On 11 July 1983, as the two mayors signed the paperwork that would cement their sister city relationship, then Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Dr. John Watson presented a large Opal to then Acting Mayor of Austin, Ron Muller. In return, Austin gifted Adelaide a bronze longhorn cast, which today sits in the Lord Mayor’s office.
The sizeable Opal, surrounded by smaller jewels mounted on a beautiful brooch, was considered an extremely generous gift. The Opal which cost $10,000 at the time, would be worth at least $50,000 today. However, research suggests that the next Lady Mayoress of Adelaide at the time thought that the Opal was bad luck and wanted to be rid of it, which lead to it becoming the main feature of the gift to Austin in 1983. Although the superstition is now mostly dead, Dr. Watson’s wife, Diana refused to wear it because she believed that the red flashes in the Opal were the devils eyes looking out. Fortunately, the Opal was worn occasionally by the wives of Austin mayors to special events, which helped to eradicate any remnants of the superstitious bad luck surrounding the gemstone. In later years, the Opal was relegated to a safety deposit box, which recently prompted Adelaide’s Lady Mayoress, Genevieve Theseira- Haese to bid for the Opal’s return to Adelaide, if it was no longer being worn. “…It would be a nice gesture so we can put it back into history as part of the Lady Mayoress’ stories, which has been missing from town hall,” she said. Theseira-Haese had been working to collect historical evidence of the 175 years of work that the Lady Mayoresses had achieved to inspire future generations. Now safely returned to Adelaide, the historic Opal sits at Town Hall.
Today, people all over Texas admire the Australian Opal’s natural beauty and its many different vibrant colours. A popular choice of gemstone for jewellery, the Opal is also the birthstone for October and the national gemstone of Australia. Opal jewellery remains a popular gift for loved ones all over the world, including Texas. Although necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings are all still beautiful options to don your favourite Opal, Mosaic Opal belt buckles are an increasingly popular alternative for those wanting to dazzle a little differently! Queensland Boulder Opal bolo ties are another beautiful style which offer gorgeous pastel multi coloured hues to your outfit. With so many different ways to style Opal, it makes for the perfect gift for a loved one.
Figure 1: Opal Belt Buckle & Boulder Opal Bolo Tie
Although 95% of Opal is mined in Australia, there are small deposits in America that have found Opal. There is only one deposit in Texas at the Catahoula Formation, a fossilized wood structure that stretches along the eastern Gulf coast of Texas and into Louisiana.
Figure 1: Idaho Opal Figure 2: Utah Opal Figure 3: Virgin Valley Opal
Although there is only one small Opal deposit in Texas, the state’s geological diversity is home to many other precious and semi-precious stones including Pearl, Topaz, Chalcedony and Cinnabar. Idaho, Utah and the Virgin Valley are some of the other American locations that have small deposits of Opal. American Opals are fairly rare and all have their own individually beautiful intricacies and colours.
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