Due to its exceptionality Opal has always been well represented in private collections around the globe.
The mysterious 'Queen of Gemstones' is synonymous with graceful power, beauty and rarity.
Pliny the Elder tells the story of how Nonius (a Senator of the Roman Republic), owned a fabulous Opal known throughout the civilised world of his day. The stone was set in a ring, it is said to have been the size and shape of a hazelnut.
Roman General and Triumvir Mark Antony was so entranced by the moving lights within Nonius' stone his fascination led him to covet the stone which he sought as a gift for his lover Goddess-Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt (30-69BC).
Antony offered Nonius several times the 2,000,000 Sesterces at which the Opal ring had been appraised, perhaps even the price of a villa on one of the seven hills of Rome in 35BC. Nonius refused to sell it, declaring it was his life. Mark Antony made him an offer he could not refuse and proscribed the Senator. Nonius preferred to be banished from Rome losing all he owned, leaving behind his wife and family, though fleeing with his most highly prized possession.
Why would a man like Mark Antony make so much trouble over an Opal?
To set the scene one must go back further to 42 BC; Antony summoned Cleopatra to a meeting in Tarsus, present-day Turkey, so she could explain why Egypt had not supported him in the Roman civil war against Caesar’s murderers.
Now that her lover and supporter Julius Caesar was dead, Cleopatra needed Mark Antony’s approval and she set about getting it the way she knew best: with a meticulously planned seduction. She sailed towards him up the Cydnus River in a scented, candlelit golden barge with purple sails, whereupon she invited him to dinner.
An eleven year love affair ensued, which became all consuming and fired the lovers with the ambition to create a new world order. They were the ancient world’s most famous celebrity couple.
Therein lies the reason Antony wanted the Senator’s Opal more than any of the innumerable treasures in Rome - it reminded him of the atmosphere in which his mind and body were fatefully seduced – the fiery Opal made light dance in ingeniously mesmerizing patterns around its emboldened beholder.
Why would a respected Senator of the Roman Republic give up all his worldly possessions bar one?
Unlike an animal whose instinct would cause it to bite off a limb in order to free itself from the hunters trap and the danger of death.
Such is the fatal attraction of Opal that men lose all reason when seduced by her charms!
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