|The Flame Queen
Perhaps the most famous opal across of the world, the Flame Queen is the finest example of an "eye-of-opal", a magnificent opal with an eye like effect which is caused when the stone in-fills a cavity.
When polished the flat pear shaped top of Flame Queen Opal gives flashes of both fiery red and dynamic bronze coloring, all dependant on the lighting and angle of view.
The Flame Queen's extraordinary cut and shape enhance its appearance, giving off numerous other color combinations in different surroundings, making it such a unique and highly admired gem, continuing to attract worldwide attention as one of the rarest and most spectacular specimens of its kind.
The Flame Queen Opal was first discovered in 1914 at the Bald Hill Workings at the charmingly named Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, Australia. It was found deep underground by miners Jack Philips, Walter Bradley and "Irish" Joe Hegarty, but it was almost never discovered at all.
At the time Lightning Ridge had become a dangerous place to mine, with many miners deciding that the potential for opals there was no longer worth the risk and danger involved. Even during earlier more fruitful times many desperate miners would often fall to fatigue or illness in their quest to uncover the opal rich clay.
Philips, Bradley and Hegarty acquired the claim at Lightening Ridge after it was seemingly abandoned by a minor who left to fight in World War I. At first their new mine seemed without value, as they dug their tunnel without any real success. Finally they reach the 30 feet mark, which was typically regarded by opal miners in the area as the "make or break" point; 30ft is the point at which typical opal levels are found, and at this point Philips, Bradley and Hegarty had nothing to show, with all signs indicating that there was no opal to be had.
Despite suspecting this claim was worthless, and perhaps in some desperation, the men continued to dig, with poor ventilation, almost no light, and an ever growing risk of the tunnel collapsing (a tunnel under 3 feet wide). Finally, against all odds, at around 35 feet, Bradley's pick struck a large black opal nodule, and they excitedly dug further, soon bringing their discovery to the surface. It was only in the light of the sun, away from the dark, suffocating mine, where they looked on in amazement at their astonishing find.
It was Bradley who was entrusted to cut and polish this magnificent opal, due to his skill and knowledge of lapidary. He was said to have took one crisp nick from the large black nodule with his steel snips, and immediately saw the dazzling reds and blue-green of the opal. But, despite his skilled work on the most precious stone, its owners were now broke, tired and hungry, and as soon as it was cut and polished the 263.18 carat Flame Queen Opal was sold for a measly £93.
The Flame Queen has since made many public appearances, mostly notably in exhibition at the national Geological Museum in London, in 1937, to honor the occasion of the coronation of King George VI.
The Flame Queen continues to be known and talked about around the world, due to its unique form and color, making it arguably the most famous Opal in history.
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