Fossilized Insect Discovered Not in Amber, But in Opal
By Brian Berger
Last year, I purchased a precious opal discovered on the island of Java in Indonesia. The specimen is an extremely rare example featuring “play of color” throughout the stone. But, most exciting in this particular opal—and likely of most interest to readers of this blog—is not the play of color but rather the inclusion. Embedded within the opal is an intact encased insect.
As evidenced in the photos, you can see what appears to be a complete insect encased beautifully inside. Upon close inspection, the insect appears to have an open mouth and to be very well preserved, with even fibrous structures extending from the appendages.
Further research is being conducted on the specimen currently. The initial theory is that this encasement may mean the opal itself is opalized amber. Theoretically speaking, the insect likely was trapped in tree sap or resin which, over time and under the right circumstances, was preserved as amber with the insect encasement. This is a process many of us are familiar with. However, a second, much rarer process of opalization can also occur. And so, in this case, as conditions changed for the amber specimen, it is possible the amber opalized, preserving the inclusion. Amazingly, the silica surrounding the insect also structurally changed to produce the play of color.
The specimen was examined recently by the Gemological Institute of America and received a letter of provenance for the rarity of such an inclusion. The letter includes the GIA report number from the examination of the stone. From a gemological standpoint, this is truly an exciting and extremely rare, notable find. And the same can likely be said from the entomological perspective. In the future, I would be eager to collaborate with an expert in insect fossils to investigate the insect inclusion further.
Brian Berger is a GIA Graduate Gemologist and CEO of Timberbrook Capital LLC in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org