Saturday, October 26, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Church Fire Opal, 1800-69

This and all related images courtesy of
the Victoria & Albert Museum

This stunning fire opal of orange-red has been faceted and mounted in a gold ring with a coronet setting.  Not much is known about the setting.  It was originally set around 1800, and, then, probably altered circa 1869.

This ring, like those from the Townshend Collection at the V&A was made  to display the stone more so than for wear.  The important collection of 154 gems bequeathed by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, a cleric and poet, represents some of the world’s rarest and finest jewels.  Sir A. H. Church gave donated additional specimens, including this amazing fire opal, in 1913. Church was responsible for compiling the first catalog “Precious Stones: A Guide to the Townshend Collection” in 1883.   This stone is among the most unusual in the collection.

Opal naturally occurs when water containing microscopically small spheres of silica settles in cavities and veins in the Earth. Opal, like many other stones, occur in a wide range of colors, with those which display an iridescent play of color considered “precious.”  Fire opal is a variety of opal which is often reddish or orange. Due to its lower water content and comparative hardness, unlike other kinds of opal, it can be cut with facets.

A sampling of the unusual jewels in the Townshend Collection.
Of note, the first two in the top row are particularly fine--green and pink tourmaline respectively.

No comments: