Fossilized Insect Discovered in Opal
Gemologist Brian Berger stumbled upon a genuinely exceptional opal at a market on the Indonesian island of Java. Initially drawn to the gemstone’s vibrant colors, he soon realized that the opal featured an insect that was somehow trapped inside.
Berger observed that the complete insect was encased beautifully within the opal. Upon closer inspection, the insect appeared to have an open mouth and fibrous structures extending from its appendages. Scientists believe that this super-rare specimen started as an insect caught in tree resin and turned into amber. This process takes millions of years and requires numerous specific circumstances, particularly if the resin contains organic material.
The amber containing the insect then underwent a second process called opalization, enriching the gemstone with a distinctive iridescent rainbow coloring. The structure of the unknown insect remained intact and visible, preserved over millennia.
Scientists have limited knowledge of how opals are formed. Still, opalization generally involves turning matter into a silica mineral by combining silicon dioxide with water. This process can occur in wood, rocks, shells, and fossilized dinosaur bones. For instance, “Eric the Opalized Pliosaur” is an opalized fossil of a prehistoric aquatic reptile.
It’s highly uncommon for the formation of amber and opalization to occur in the same chunk of ancient tree resin, which just so happened to contain a bug. This example is among the few known examples of such an occurrence. Berger sent the stone to the Gemological Institute of America for examination. They verified its provenance, noting it is the only one they have ever examined.
While the value of this specimen is priceless to Berger, he is considering offering it to a museum for display if there is interest. He believes sharing the discovery with the world is the best route.