You know that moment when you first catch someone’s eye and fall hopelessly in lust across a crowded bar? You see someone so stunning you cannot take your eyes off them? Well this is what I recently had when a friend sent me a picture on Facebook, it was off a piece of jewellery with beautiful coloured cabochon in the centre, claiming to be a Dragon’s Breath fire opal…how could I not be in love, I wanted one…no I needed one, and suddenly I was learning all about these beautiful pieces of glass.
First of all, do not be deceived, though they maybe called fire opals they are, in fact, glass and Dragon’s Breath Fire Opal is merely a name given to it by collectors in the early 2000’s, but this glass seems to have been around since the Edwardian Era and was made by talented, Bohemian (now known as the Czech Republich) Glass makers, and suddenly I remembered the first time I saw some.
It was a small unassuming piece, but it caught my eye with a flash as I wandered past. I was in a jewellery shop in Prague that had a special section for vintage pieces, the gentleman behind the counter noticed I was looking at it and lifted it out of its casing to show me, all the while telling it was Mexican Fire Opal. I had no idea what it was at the time, but it was beautiful, an oval on decorative silver background and delicate chain, flashes of colour darted through it as he moved it side to side. His English did not stretch to explaining what it was, and my Czech covered only please and thank you, but the price was a little out of my range and I left it reluctantly behind, heading off to an underground bar to drown my sorrows with absinthe and jazz music…it was only 13 years later that I would recall that moment vividly, the dark corner of the shop but the wide open front, tourists bustling past and a sense of curiosity and fascination, and the curiosity and that memory lead me to continue my research today.
Apparently the technique used to make this beautiful glass was lost to history, the glass contains a metal that causes those flashes of lightening blue, but it cannot be replicated now and the newer cabochons you see from around the 50’s to 60’s are more vibrant and have a foil backing. Though beautiful they do not hold the same value as those from the 20’s.
If you would like to learn a little more about this stunning glass creation, how to identify fake or misnamed pieces, and see some beautiful examples of the stones click on the links below and they will bring you to people who have been learning about this a lot longer than I have and have lots of lovely interesting things to say. I love that to this day there are techniques for making things that have been lost to time, and this leaves us with something mysterious and beautiful, but it is also a reminder of what we can lose from the world when information is lost and skills are not passed on.