When one mentions opals, most people think immediately of precious opals, the gem-quality stones that tend to show up in pieces of jewelry. It is precious opal that possesses the flashing, shimmering colors—the opalescence—that make the stones so lovely.
While opals are found in a number of places around the world, the finest gem opals are found in Australia. Because South Australia is one of the key locations for the mining of gem-quality opals, Adelaide is pretty well supplied with jewelry stores that specialize in opals.
I talk a fair bit about opals in the book, so I won’t repeat it all here, but I did want to show you a photo of the splendid “pseudomorph”—a fossil shell formed entirely of opal—that caught my eye while I was browsing through Opal Field Gems in Adelaide. You’ll see it below, mounted in a necklace—a perfect cockle shell shape, all of opal. (Actually, there are two cockle-shaped pseudomorphs in the photo, but the one that really captured my fancy was the one in the necklace.) The gorgeous black opals that I so admired can also be seen—the ones that look like molten emeralds and sapphires mixed together.
One of the stories that didn’t make it into the book, however, is that while I was browsing through the store, it suddenly occurred to me that, with a few relatively settled days in Adelaide, I could take care of some business that had been delayed by all my wandering. While I was still on the camping trip that carried me down the rugged west coast, someone had offered me a particularly sticky candy called Milk Shake—the sort of thing that pulls fillings out. Or, in my case, an inlay. I had been trotting about the countryside now for several weeks with about half a tooth missing. Well, not entirely missing, as it was in my purse, but I wanted it where it belonged. So I asked the charming sales manager at the opal store if she could offer any recommendations. She wrote down the address of her own dentist, whose office was just a few blocks away.
I found the dentist, and his receptionist was able to arrange an appointment only a few days later. By Tuesday of the following week, my inlay was back in place. I only mention this because it has afforded me some amusement over the years. Often, people who know of Australia’s gold rush ask if I have any Australian gold in my teeth. I smile and reply that, no, I don’t, but the gold I do have is held in place with Australian glue.