pixel

The Baja Storyteller
By Martina

The Fire Opal of Mexico

By Martina

The Opal Mine Ensenada

Ensenada is an exciting city that holds the past gently while embracing the 21st century. Sunlight flashes off the bay, sparkling around the towering cruise ships in the harbor, gulls call to one another and the massive Mexican flag unfolds with the westerly breeze over the malecón. Today, I’m in search of the Opal Mine, which is not a mine at all, but a store that offers exquisite jewelry set with the fiery Mexican opal. The Opal Mine shares the building with Doña Engracia Tequilera at the corner of Costero Blvd and Alvarado.

Entering off the street, the building is constructed to replicate the rock quarries and a mural shows a weary miner with his payload. The display cases glow with inner light and beacon me into a fantasy of owning what is often called “The Mexican Diamond.” The displays are created with an array of intense and brilliant colors, while others are filled with gel, white and soft yellow. Each case features a particular hue with names like sky blue, fire orange, cherry, emerald and blue rain.

The Opal Mine Ensenada

Overhead a flat-screen guides the visitor through the history to contemporary mining. Fire opal was born in the ancient volcano flows of Mexico. They were formed during the Cretaceous period and brought to the Earth’s surface during the Pleistocene age. The Aztec Indians of Mexico were among the first to discover the opal of many colors. They called it the Hummingbird stone, or vitzitziltecpal, named for how the colors in the opal were iridescent like hummingbird’s plumage. According to historic dates, Mexican opals were used by the Aztec people for ornamental and ceremonial pieces between the years 1200 CE and 1519 CE.

Opals are called amorphous solid, because they do not have a crystalline structure, they’re not organized in a definite pattern. Such solids include glass, plastic, and gel. Opals are classed as a mineroloid. Rough opals are imbedded in what is called cantera, a rock that many of Mexico’s buildings were constructed with, causing the pink coloration of historic city centers in Michoacan. Opals play with deep rich colors. This comes from a wonder of natural forces from a solution of silicon dioxide and water. Ancient streams ran down through the earth, picking up silica from sandstone. This found its way into natural faults. As the water evaporated, it left behind the silica deposit. Opals can still contain up to 20% water in weight and the reason that opals refract light in such extraordinary colors and patterns.

The Fire Opal Ensenada

We can appreciate the grueling labor that is required to remove the opal from the surrounding stone. Called “bank mining,” first heavy equipment dig into a hillside, exposing the “opal-bearing substrate.” From this point it is manual labor all the way and miners proceed with caution. It is a delicate process done with small pointed mallets and soft brushes. Laborers kneel on the ground and work around a silicate deposit, chipping away carefully. While others sit on the ground coaxing the rough gems free. They have to watch carefully for tiny opals that might fall into the dirt. In many shops in Mexico a traveler might find the “cantera opal,” where by the polished opal is left in its pink matrix and sold as a gift item. Of the twenty-five varieties of opals, the most significant fire opals are mined in Mexico’s largest site in Magdalena, Jalisco. There are nearly 300 opal mines in the region. From here the rough opal goes through cleaning, polishing and jewelry design. At The Opal Mine we can see the extraordinary artistic creations by silversmiths. Omar Sabino, store manager, is very knowledgeable and happy to talk opals. A passionate gem lover will want to spend time with the beauty of fire and color combined in the precious opal.

Trivia about the opal

  • The opal is the national gemstone of Mexico.
  • What is “noodling”? A process of picking through old mine sites. People actually make their living noodling for tiny or forgotten opals.
  • Mexican fire opal is the only natural opal that is normally faceted with precise calibration.
  • The best opals can command prices per carat that rival the most expensive diamonds, rubies and emeralds.
  • The largest faceted fire opal weighs 42 carats, the ring is selling for $30,000.
  • Opal does not lose its color. However, if allowed to dry out, it can crack.
  • Opal is the birth stone for Libra, people born in October.
  • The opal is not bad luck. It was an early rumor spread by diamond traders to block opal sales.

A little 'far-out' trivia:

  • Among the indigenous people of Central America, fire opal was thought to be a stone filled with life and created in the heavenly waters.
  • The Aztecs considered the stone to be a charm that would protect against “evil eye and curses.”
  • The metaphysical properties of fire opal are related to loyalty and trust. Because of the interplay of colors and light, fire opal is considered a stone of magical powers. Fire opal is said to be a great stimulant, helping stoke the inner fires and enhancing a person’s own individual power. It is a warming and energizing stone, and some say it can magnify passion.
  • The explosion of color and light in these gems make it nearly impossible to choose a favorite. But the fire opal is so extraordinary, it is easy to see why the ancients gave it a power beyond human understanding. Here at the Opal Mine we can delight in the fire of this exquisite gem and be grateful for those gentle and skilled hands which cared for it along the way.

The Fire Opal Ensenada



Contact:
Lázaro Cárdenas 921
Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
Phone from the US: 011-52-646 178 2738

References
Omar Sabino Hernandez, store manager
Wikipedia

Martina's email: mteomaya(at)gmail.com

4.7 93 Reviews
  • user logo
    Benjamin Driebe
    From logo

    Absolutely fantastic, I already forgot her name because I have a terrible memory but the woman that helped me on the phone was wonderful,...

  • user logo
    richard carr
    From logo

    fast replies and great price!

  • user logo
    Juan Zuniga
    From logo

    I just would like to know if you guys are going to update the fastpass direction any soon, during the month of January the lane changed to...

  • user logo
    Richard Schweiger
    From logo

    Very professional, very helpful, great policy, I couldn't be happier with Baja Mexican Insurance, the friendly smiles and ease of it all in...

  • user logo
    Ryan Frisby
    From logo

    We use them every time we travel to Mexico. Luckily we have not needed their services yet but getting insurance through them is quick and...

  • user logo
    Jan Muhammad
    From logo

    I need a tourist visa for maxico I'm from pakistan help me sir

  • user logo
    Tracy Moore
    From logo

    Very easy, quick, and professional

  • user logo
    robert kepper
    From logo

    They are very good . There website doesn't show you need a title to bring a vehicle across the border.I was stopped and told I had to...

  • user logo
    Edilver Martinez
    From logo

    Our go to Baja car insurance, everytime we take a visit down south . Usually it's for a day trip either for a quick getaway with the family...

  • user logo
    Daniel Markofsky
    From logo

    Third time working with Baja Bound and they made it easy! Thanks!

  • user logo
    Steve Bender
    From logo

    Have never needed to use the insurance fortunately but the website always works great. Can buy a policy in about a minute.

  • user logo
    Jose Paez
    From logo

    Had a great experience getting insurance at Baja Bound, before I always stoped at the border to purchase my insurance, not anymore. By the...

  • user logo
    JUSTINE SERRANO
    From logo

    I purchased insurance through them & CHUBB for our trip to San Felipe. Unfortunately, we had to cancel due to our vehicle having an oil...

  • user logo
    Christian Minor
    From logo

    Team were on point, provided inside information, prices were great and they had my proposal already in the system when I called back....

  • user logo
    Joey Digiovanni
    From logo

    Easy to work with 😉. Always courteous and helpful

  • user logo
    George
    From logo

    Excellent customer service

  • user logo
    Kellye Pummill
    From logo

    Fast and easy!

  • user logo
    Jennifer Toups
    From logo

    Baja Bound is and has been my go to Mexico insurance company. The website is extremely easy to use, keeps all your info for a quick...

  • user logo
    Cesar Lopez
    From logo

    Very convenient, great price !!

  • user logo
    Louis Schneidman
    From logo

    I had an awesome experience with Baja Bound. Family owned and highly personal, top notch customer service. I have total peace of mind...

  • user logo
    Phil Noble
    From logo

    If you’re looking for Mexican Insurance that you can trust and feel good about while traveling in Mexico, you’ve found the right place....

  • user logo
    Jeff Bunker
    From logo

    Great coverage options . Price buy and print policy , very quick and easy , highly recommend them when driving in Mexico

  • user logo
    Burrell DeVine
    From logo

    Easy to navigate and very competitively priced! I had to call in and add an additional day, they couldn't have been any more pleasant to...

  • user logo
    Nereyda Torres
    From logo

    Me gusta la asuguranza porque la puedes comprar por un dia y te asegura en Mexico por el tiempo que vas ya sea hasta por mes (Translated...

  • user logo
    james whitmer
    From logo

    Best insurance I've had so far

  • user logo
    Rail1riders
    From logo

    Quick, easy, well designed website and not just for Baja. Good rates for temporal residente gringos. We’re not living in Jalisco. Printed...

  • user logo
    Matt B
    From logo

    I always use Baja Bound to source my insurance while traveling to Mexico. Fortunately, I have not had to file any claims. I do appreciate...

  • user logo
    Refugio I. Rochin
    From logo

    Excellent online and by direct phone. Spanish and English with proven response to questions. Website is very informative about driving in...

  • user logo
    Kelly Carney
    From logo

    Yara is very helpful and explains everything. Love working with companies like this.

  • user logo
    Slumdog Gump
    From logo

    Changed some money. Good rate and friendly people.

  • user logo
    Jeff G
    From logo

    Went down to TJ June 11 2020 No problems going into TJ but the way back was a ordeal 6 hours in line to get back into the USA but no...

  • user logo
    don letson
    From logo

    Great renewal process, if only south Dakota would do the same for car registration.

  • user logo
    len buckholtz
    From logo

    SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD. OLD GUYS LIKE THAT. WILL DEFINITELY USE IN 6 MONTHS IF STILL RUNNING AROUND THE WILDS OF BAJA.

  • user logo
    Susana Judd
    From logo

    Easy, quick and fair prices. Easy to deal with if needed.

  • user logo
    Seismic Waterfinder
    From logo

    Very excellent service, needed insurance for Mexico, price was fair. The custumer service rep was Yara

  • user logo
    Nicolas Dervé
    From logo

    Very good ans very fast. We hope all will ben good if we need it.

  • user logo
    Blake Glassco
    From logo

    I will never drive south of the border without Baja Bound in my center console. I was in an accident a couple hours south of Ensenada and...

  • user logo
    JohnPaul Gemelli
    From logo

    Baja Bound could not have made it an easier ... also, I made a mistake and called them having to leave a message ... but, they called back...

  • user logo
    Jeff Brandt
    From logo

    so far so good, however I have read good things about them

  • user logo
    Sengoz N
    From logo

    SERIOUS.

  • user logo
    Kenneth Trass
    From logo

    Getting a policy was simple, Provided more than provider for price comparison.

  • user logo
    Esther Valencia
    From logo

    Super easy to purchase just the coverage you need when crossing the border in your own car. I especially appreciate the fact that I was...

  • user logo
    Larry Cottingham
    From logo

    Great service, very helpful people there.

  • user logo
    Luis Cortes
    From logo

    Easiest way to purchase insurance when traveling to Mexico. I have used their service for the last 7 years and it only gets easier and...

  • user logo
    j dougher ty
    From logo

    EZ Peasy insurance purchase. Great service every time I've used them. Had to cancel one time when my travel plans went away - no problem....

  • user logo
    Paul Niehouse
    From logo

    Extremely easy to acquire a policy. Many options available. Reasonable rates.

  • user logo
    Colin
    From logo

    Super-easy and instant. Very happy with initial purchase.

  • user logo
    Howard M Elster
    From logo

    2nd year with Chubb. No problems

  • user logo
    Cyndee Congrove
    From logo

    Great customer service, quick, friendly staff helpfully answered all questions, very patient with my learning curve on a new product. Would...

  • user logo
    Art Eugenio
    From logo

    I've had Baja Bound insurance for more that ten years now with thousands of miles logged in Baja. Fortunately, I've only had one fender...

  • user logo
    Gabe Matthews
    From logo

    Where do i start..... you dont know you have good insurance until you have to actually use it. I have had Baja Bound INS for over 5 years...

  • user logo
    keith berkley
    From logo

    Been going to baja for 45 years. This is best insurance company i have come accross.

  • user logo
    Ryan Perkio
    From logo

    I have been using BajaBound Insurance for 15 years - multiple trips per year. Their website is easy, their coverage is great, and the...

  • user logo
    RaMon McBride
    From logo

    I have not had any claims thus far so rating is based on ease of purchase.

  • user logo
    Larry French
    From logo

    By far the best service for Mex insurance in Baja. They are personally there for you if you have problems south of the border.

  • user logo
    Tudor Thomas
    From logo

    Baja Bound makes buying insurance for going south of the border as easy as it gets. The website is the easiest I have used and the staff...