Any gemstone that is recognized for its stress-management properties gets a tick of approval from me, especially one which is Australian and contains dendritic inclusions (one of our favorite features).
Australian Dendritic Opal is typically a black and white ornamental gemstone containing areas of opaque white common Opal, translucent grey, to colorless chalcedony, and picturesque black to brown dendritic inclusions of manganese oxides. Although it is often called “Merlinite” in the new-age scene, it is however the dendrites that have made this stone popular, not Merlin.
Dendritic is a term used to describe the formation in which certain minerals crystallize; fine fern-like branches, much like the structure of frost and snowflakes. Even when looking at one of our dendritic opal rings, it’s hard to believe that that these fern-like branches were not synthetically added to the stone, and that this stone naturally grows in this way. Dendrites are, by definition, a fractal – a “self-similar” pattern, meaning they are the same either near or far, an ever- evolving pattern of repetition and growth. Fractals are fascinating for more than just the dendrite enthusiast. Mathematicians and scientists have studied their attributes to further their knowledge of geometry, metallurgy, computer technologies, neurosciences, space and time. In the gemological world dendrites are manganese oxides (MnO2) and form in fine fractures and fissures through the crystallization of manganese rich solutions from surrounding weathered rock. In the jewelry world, they’re simply beautiful and can turn a piece of common Opal into a ring, pendant or earrings of spectacular beauty and intrigue.
Most people will look at a Dendritic Opal pendant and say “that’s not Opal!” but our perception of opal has been skewed by our nation’s abundance of “Precious Opal” and the magnificent ‘play-of-color’ it exhibits. Common Opal (also referred to as ‘potch’) is Precious Opal’s not-so-extravagant cousin. Both are silicon dioxide (SiO2) with varying amounts of water (H2O), however the key ingredient of orderly, symmetrical micro – structure of silica spheres that are required to produce flares of spectral light is not present in common Opal. Instead they are varying sizes and randomly arranged. With a hardness of 7, Dendritic Opal is a good stone for use in jewelry although the water content means extreme temperatures can negatively affect the stone.
An original and favorite gemstone of Made in Earth’s collection, Bunny Bedi, owner and designer of Made In Earth reminisces about his first experiences of this Australian gem. “The late Frank Soklich (founder of Soklich Trading Company) was a dear friend of mine and he had mentioned a long time ago that it was Dendritic Opal which first sparked his lifelong love for gemstones. About 40 years back, Frank and his wife Maureen noticed the black and white beauty against the dusty red landscape as they drove through Norseman on a holiday through the Western Australia outback. Still to this day, it is the best quality I have ever seen and luckily for us we had purchased a large quantity of rough rock from this location, as the site is now covered by railway lines.” Today, Dendritic Opal is found in various locations throughout Western Australia and Northern Territory. Some international deposits are also found in Turkey and Mexico so not all Dendritic Opal on the market is Australian.
Although not deemed ‘precious’, Dendritic Opal is certainly still precious to us here at Made in Earth. The dendrites in each piece create completely unique patterns and pictures in every piece of our dendritic opal jewelry.