Slab of white, iridescent opal

Slab of white, iridescent opal

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Credit: ROBERTO DE GUGLIEMO/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: A slab of white, iridescent opal. Opal is composed of microspheroids of hydrous silicon oxide. It is the refraction of light within these spheroids which gives the mineral its iridescent, mother-of- pearl-like sheen. Opal never occurs in a crystaline form, but as small veins, globules and crusts. Several varieties occur; colourless, milky white, hazy blue, red (fire opal) and black types and also a type of fossilised wood know as wood opal. Black and fire opals are particularly valued as gemstones. This specimen measures 9 x 7 cm and was found in Pedro II, Piaui, Brazil.

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Keywords: earth science, geology, opal, white

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