Mississippi Opal on Fast Track to Becoming Magnolia State's Official Gemstone

It looks like the Mississippi Opal is on the fast track to becoming the Magnolia State's official gemstone. In early February, the Mississippi House voted 115-0 to recognize the unique gem as its newest state symbol.

If Bill 2138 passes the Senate, the speckled grey gem that displays opal-like flashes of orange and green will earn the state's special distinction alongside the official bird (mockingbird), flower (magnolia), fish (largemouth bass) and insect (honeybee).

“In Mississippi, we don’t have diamonds, we don’t have rubies… but we do have vast supplies of the opal,” Republican Rep. Becky Currie of Brookhaven told the Associated Press.

Geologist James Starnes is credited with discovering the Mississippi Opal less than 20 years ago when he and his team at the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) were mapping the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in Claiborne County, near Vicksburg.

The geologists believe the Mississippi Opal was formed millions of years ago from volcanic ash.

The MDEQ joined forces with members of the North Mississippi Gem and Mineral Society and the Mississippi State Board of Registered Professional Geologists to endorse the Mississippi Opal as the state's official gemstone.

Starnes told NBC affiliate WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg that the Mississippi Opal's elevated status would "encourage folks to take interest in the state's geology."

What's more, Starnes explained that the same geological formations that allowed for the creation of Mississippi Opal in Claiborne County is also present throughout the state's pine belt.

He encouraged amateur gem hunters to seek them out.

"You’re not just looking for the sandstone," he said, "but you’re looking for the flashes of different colors from greens to reds. The color of this opal is different than any opal in the world. It is very electric in color."

The MDEQ would love to hear about any discoveries. Starnes encouraged amateur prospectors to contact the state's environmental quality department via its website at mdeq.ms.gov.

Specimens of Mississippi Opal are currently available for public viewing at both the Museum of the Mississippi Delta in Greenwood and the Oren Dunn City Museum in Tupelo.

Credits: Screen captures via wdam.com.

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