A Roman Black Opal Ring

A Roman Black Opal ring?

Pliny the Elder a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher wrote of Opal in his Book XXXVII of Natural History.

"Of all precious stones, it is opal that presents the greatest difficulties of description, it displaying at once the piercing fire of carbunculus, the purple brilliancy of amethystos, and the sea-green of smaragdus, the whole blended together and refulgent with a brightness that is quite incredible. Some authors have compared the effect of its refulgence to that of the colour known as Armenian pigment, while others speak of it as resembling the flame of burning sulphur, or of flame fed with oil."  

Note: Carbunculus = Garnet, Amethystos = Amethyst, Smaragdus = Emerald.

Black OpalMarcus Nonius, a Roman Senator, owned an Opal the size of a hazelnut set in a ring. 

The Romans believed the Opal to be a symbol of purity and power. They also viewed Opal as all gems rolled into one. 

Nonius so believed in the power of his Opal that when Marc Antony offered an exorbitant price for his ring that he refused.

Black OpalAntony desired to give the ring to his lover Cleopatra and told Nonius that he could sell the ring or choose exile from Rome. 

Nonius chose banishment leaving all his possessions, including family and villa. 

He retained his precious Opal ring.

Pliny writes of the tale.

"On being thus proscribed, Nonius took to flight, carrying with him, out of all his wealth, nothing but this ring, the value of which, it is well known, was estimated at two millions of sesterces."

Whilst some sources say that the play of color reported by history in this Opal that it must have been Black Opal. I can find no evidence of this and I guess we will never know.

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