Precious opal is a rainbow made tangible. Its spectral blaze of color moves, changes, intensifies, fades, or disappears with the slightest change in perspective. Opal's intriguing play of color and unique atomic arrangement has made it the subject of scientific probing from early optics in the 1850s to high tech photonics today. Equally challenging has been discovering opal's place in history. Its beauty begs to be enshrined in myth and legend when facts are as scarce as the stone itself.Opal, both precious and common, is found in disparate environments from the unbearable heat of the Australian outback to the higher elevations of the Canadian Rockies, from a centuries old site in Slovakia to a number of little known places in the American west. A unique assortment of characters collect and mine this equally individual stone, of which no two are exactly alike.This blazing gem of chemical simplicity'just silica and water'has ignited a complexity of human emotions: a compulsion to mine, the desire to wear, an urge to fashion, the challenge to imitate, a need to possess. A natural, wearable stone with magical depth, movement, and color, opal is a truly phenomenal gemstone.Max Weibel is the author of 'Opal: The Phenomenal Gemstone', published 2007 under ISBN 9780979099809 and ISBN 0979099803.