LIFE

Magical Glow-In-The-Dark Opal Discovered In Australian Cave

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

When you think of something that glows in the dark, you’re probably imagining the glowing stars you might have stuck to your ceiling as a kid. Or maybe you imagine deep-sea creatures or fungus growing in caves and glowing with a soft, bluish light.

But you might not imagine that something that can glow brightly with every color of the rainbow could be naturally occurring — and not radioactive!

But it’s true. Just like the rare rainless fire rainbow, this can happen right on Earth. Nature really is amazing. In 2003, a gem that looks like a hundred fireworks trapped in glass was discovered in Adelaide, Australia.

After years of study, it’s finally on display at the Southern Australia Museum. It’s called the Virgin Rainbow, and it’s not a diamond. Instead, it’s an opal.

Opals are gems made from silica. They’re transparent, but their internal structure refracts light at all angles. The result looks like a rainbow explosion inside the stone, and also allows them to appear to change color depending on the light.

And while most opals are more subdued, the Virgin Rainbow is full of super-saturated color that only gets more intense when the light dims. Check it out below, and you won’t believe your eyes!

[H/T: My Modern Met]

The Virgin Rainbow is the most intensely colored opal to be found.

It was discovered in a mine in South Australia, and is now on display in the Southern Australia Museum.

Its intense color make it worth over $1 million.

Technically, the Virgin Rainbow is an opalized fossil.

This means its shape is that of a prehistoric sea creature whose body left an impression in the hardened mud, only to be filled in by silica gel that later turned into an opal.

The ancient sea dried out into what is now Southern Australia’s desert climate, and millions of years later, a miner found it while working.

Opals have long been treasured in Australia, but this opal makes others pale in comparison — literally.

The museum’s display, of which the Virgin Rainbow will be the centerpiece, even reconstructed the mine where the gem was found for a fully immersive experience.

Opals have a long and storied history, which makes them all the more fascinating.

Because of their color-changing properties, they’re popular as jewelry, like the “Rainbow Shield,” seen here.

And because opals are formed by hardening silica gel, they can also infiltrate cavities in other material. This stone is part opal and partially another type of stone.

Opals were also said to bring good luck in the Middle Ages, because they contained the colors of all gems.

Legend also said if you wrapped a bay leaf around an opal, you could harness the power of invisibility!

But they’ve also been associated with bad luck and impending death.

The Virgin Rainbow is currently on display at the Southern Australia Museum, along with many other beautiful opals. And we promise they’re not bad luck!

SHARE this with anyone you know who loves jewels and just how magical nature can be!