As it often happens, we do not know the way in which things around us are interesting and unusual. In Slovakia there is a site that is absolutely unique worldwide. Us divers are very lucky in that we can also dive there.
Nowhere in the world was this opal mined such a long time ago, and that is why the opal deposits in this area are an exceptional phenomenon from a global perspective.
The history of the opal gem dates back to the Stone Age, to the Palaeolithic period. The oldest written notions of it are from the 5th century BC, when opal was mentioned in a poem of the Greek poet Onomakritos. Throughout the period of the Roman Empire opal was adorned by the ancient Romans, some 200 years before Christ. Roman historian Plinius described opal in his work Historiae Naturalis Libri XXXVII as a ‘gem of all gems’. He also wrote that the Roman Senator Nonius chose exile rather than to give up his ring with a large opal in favour of Mark Antony. Cleopatra too, was given a large opal as a gift from one of her lovers.
Similarly, at a later point in time, opal from this site was the focus of other important figures in history. It became very popular with members of the family of Emperor Napoleon. Empress Josephine wore the most famous opal – Trojan Fire.
The first written mention of mining of the opal gems in this area dates back to 1597. It was an authorization issued by Emperor Rudolf II for the maintenance of the mines for Albert Magnus of Wroclaw. In his work from the 1609 called Gemmarum et lapidum, Anselm Boetius de Boot recalls opal in relation to an old caved-in mine, which proves that the extraction of opal gems is older than those written records. Further information about opal comes from Father Brown in 1673. According to him, there is a crude opal lager than a fist amongst the collections of the Emperors Mineralogical Cabinet. It was however the well-known Viennese jeweller Salomon Goldschmidt and his family that brought the opal from this region to the peak of its fame in the years 1845-1880.
A unique curiosity is that nowhere in the world, and at no point in history, was opal mined using a mining method at such a large scale as it was at this site. Already 150 years ago, a comparable amount (about 25 thousand carats) of opal was mined in this location as is currently mined in Australia.