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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Opal Peacock Brooch

Close-up photograph of the opal peacock brooch (NMNH G7987)
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G7987-00
Locality New South Wales, Australia
Weight 32 ct

Gift of Harry Winston in 1977.This object was designed by Harry Winston, Inc.

Opals are described according to their transparency and body color. Opals with a vivid play-of-color and a dark body color are called black opals. The world’s finest black opals are highly prized and were discovered in the legendary Lightning Ridge opal field in Australia in 1903. Opals can form only when an undisturbed space in a rock holds a clean solution of silica from which water is slowly removed over a period of thousands of years. The opals consist of transparent spheres of silica that are tightly packed. The voids, or spaces, among the spheres contain only air or water. In precious opal the silica spheres are of uniform size and are stacked into an orderly arrangement that act as a diffraction grating, breaking visible white light into separate colors, producing the play-of-color. Opals are typically cut as cabochons or polished free form to best show this play-of-color. The Opal Peacock Brooch was designed by Harry Winston, Inc., and features a 32-carat black opal from Lightning Ridge, Australia. The vivid blue and green play-of-color and a black body color make this beautiful opal rare and valuable. The color of the opal is also similar to the iridescent blue and green colors of a peacock’s plumage. The opal is accented with sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds set in an 18k yellow gold brooch. The Opal Peacock was generously gifted to the Smithsonian by Harry Winston, Inc. in 1977 and is on display at the National Museum of Natural History.



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