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Monday 17 August 2015

Special Edition 149

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Meet the Virgin Rainbow, the most beautiful opal in the world

by Michelle Starr


The Virgin Rainbow measures 63.3 by 14.3mm (2.5 by 0.56 inches).
Photo Richard Lyons courtesy South Australian Museum

An opal so fine it has been valued at over $1 million is about to go on public display for the first time.

Our world produces some incredible rocks. Take the opal, a precious stone that forms out of silica, in the
dark under the surface of the earth. When cut and polished, it flashes with a gorgeous array of colours, from
pale milky hues to deep reds and blacks.
Now, an opal that has been named the finest ever unearthed will be making its public debut next month as the
centrepiece of an exhibition opening at the South Australian Museum, Adelaide.
Called the Virgin Rainbow, it was discovered in the opal fields of Coober Pedy by opal miner John Dunstan in 2003.
It's actually an opalised fossil, from an extinct cephalopod called belemnitida that existed during the
Mesozoic era. During that time, much of South Australia was under a vast inland sea filled with
prehistoric aquatic reptiles called plesiosaurs. These died and sank to the bottom of the sea, buried over the
millennia by sediment.
When the sea dried up and the land turned into a desert, the acidity levels in the shallow top layer of the
sandstone increased. This released silica from weathering sandstone into the layer of clay beneath, where
bones and pockets left by disintegrated bones lay buried, carried down via groundwater.
Further weatherirg lowered the acidity levels, which allowed the silica gel to harden into opals in the
pockets and impressions left by decayed animal material, like cake poured into a mould, or to soak into bones and
create a replica of the internal structure.
The famous Australian opal fields of Coober Pedy are located in this region. No other environment in the world is
known to have undergone this same process, which is possibly why over 90 percent of the world's opals come from
South Australia.
Opalised fossils in this region are not uncommon. In fact, the South Australian Museum is home to another
spectacular opal structure: an almost complete opalised skeleton of a six-metre (20-foot) plesiosaur known as
the Addyman Plesiosaur, although you have to look closely to see its opalescent sheen.
Not so with the Virgin Rainbow, which spits a rainbow of coloured sparks from its heart.
"You'll never see another piece like that one, it's so special. That opal actually glows in the dark -- the
darker the light, the more colour comes out of it, it's unbelievable," Dunstan told the ABC.
"I've done a lot of cutting and polishing [of opals], I've been doing it for 50 years, but when you compare it to
the other pieces that claim to be the best ever, this one just killed it."
The Virgin Rainbow isn't the most valuable opal in the world. That honour goes to a massive, 3.45-kilogram
(7.6-pound) stone named the Olympic Australis opal, excavated in the Coober Pedy in 1956. In 2005, the Olympic
Australis was valued at $2.5 million.
Both the Addyman Plesiosaur and the Virgin Rainbow will be on display among a dazzling collection of opals.
"From jewellery to fossils to specimens embedded in rock, visitors will be treated to a spectacle of
unmatched colour and beauty. This is an exhibition literally millions of years in the making because these
opals were formed back when dinosaurs walked the earth and central Australia was an inland sea," said
Museum Director Brian Oldman.
The exhibition, called simply Opals, will run from September 25, 2015, until February 14, 2016.

Whatever happened to ‘equality’ marriage reporting?

FamilyVoice Australia, 14 August 2015

“All things being equal, Australians would get to hear both
sides of the marriage debate,” FamilyVoice Australia research officer Ros
Phillips said today.

“But ‘equality’ is missing, and yesterday was no
different. About 30 indigenous people travelled considerable distances to
Canberra to present a bark petition to MPs. They called for the
protection of marriage – which has been a sacred part of their culture for
thousands of years: a man-woman union.”
Ros Phillips said The Australian reported the story today, but with a
negative slant, and also carried a paid advertisement explaining
the petition on page 4. “But I searched in vain for other reports,” Ros
Phillips said.
“Australians are known for upholding ‘fair play’.
Many of us who support natural marriage – including thousands of
indigenous Australians who have known no other kind of marriage since they
first arrived in this wide brown land – are still waiting for it!”

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