On Friday, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed into law a bill designating the Mississippi Opal as the Magnolia State's official gemstone.
On Twitter, the Governor posted two photos captioned with the proclamation, "Mississippi officially has a state gemstone! I was happy to sign legislation declaring it to be the beautiful Mississippi Opal, the only naturally occurring gemstone in our state."
The state's First Lady, Elee Reeves, is seen modeling a Mississippi Opal pendant in one of the pics. The governor's tweet emphasized his wife's support in ferrying the legislation through the state's House and Senate, where the bills passed unanimously.
“The green Mississippi Opal is as beautiful as our state and it will be an excellent representation of our unique geological history,” noted Governor Reeves. “Thank you to our First Lady and the folks at the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for working to elevate this issue.”
“There’s no doubt that Mississippi is home to lovely people, places, and natural resources,” First Lady Reeves said. “I’m incredibly excited to have the Mississippi Opal as our official state gemstone. This gem is a perfect example of the beauty found in the state we love.”
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 Mississippi Opal was formed millions of years ago from volcanic ash. The gem is unique because it displays opal-like flashes ranging from red to orange to green.
The bill's expedited run through Mississippi's legislature — and its ultimate signing by the governor — is attributed to the combined efforts of the MDEQ, the North Mississippi Gem and Mineral Society, the Mississippi State Board of Registered Professional Geologists and Mississippi's First Lady.
The bill emphasized how the designation of the Mississippi Opal as the state's official gemstone would encourage pride in the state's rich natural heritage.
Starnes believes the Mississippi Opal’s elevated status will “encourage folks to take interest in the state’s geology.”
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: Images via Twitter / Governor Tate Reeves.