Blue, iridescent opal

Blue, iridescent opal

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Credit: MARTIN LAND/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: An iridescent blue sample of precious 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 other varieties occur; colourless, milky white, 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.

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Keywords: earth science, geology, opal, precious

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