Monday, 29 September 2014

Gold of the Achaemenid Empire

The Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BCE), was an empire in Western and Central Asia, founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great.

The dynasty draws its name from king Achaemenes, who ruled Persis between 705 BCE and 675 BCE. The empire expanded to eventually rule over much of the ancient world which at around 500 BCE stretched from the Indus Valley in the east, to Thrace and Macedon on the northeastern border of Greece, making it the biggest empire the world had yet seen. The Achaemenid Empire would eventually control Egypt as well.

Panoramic view of the Naqsh-e Rustam. This site contains the tombs of four Achaemenid kings, including those of Darius I and Xerxes.
In 480 BCE, it is estimated that 50 million people lived in the Achaemenid Empire or about 44% of the world's population at the time, making it by population the largest empire.

Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon) defeated the Persian armies at Granicus (334 BCE), followed by Issus (333 BCE), and lastly at Gaugamela (331 BCE).

Afterwards, he marched on Susa and Persepolis which surrendered in early 330 BCE.

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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Black Opal

In the first century A.D. Pliny wrote of the opal, "... For in them you shall see the living fire of the ruby, the glorious purple of the amethyst, the sea green of the emerald, all glittering together in an incredible mixture of light", and later Shakespeare was to describe it as the "Queen of Gems".

Due to its colour play and "life", the opal has been subjected to many superstitions and myth . Opal was said to ward off diseases and for this reason was worn in amulets. In Roman times it was included in the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Opal, from the Greek, "Opallos", meaning 'to see a change (of colour)', is a formation of non-crystalline silica gel.

Millions of years ago, this gel seeped into crevices and cracks in the sedimentary strata. Through eons of time and through nature's heating and moulding processes, the gel hardened and can today be found in the form of opals.
Black opal is the rarest and most valuable type. It is generally found as a bar (or bars) of various colours forming natural water horizontals in dark grey to black "potch nobbies" or "nodules". The unique patterns are as complex as an artist's imagination.
98% of the world's supply of this radiant, dark lustrous gem is mined at only two tiny pinpoints on the globe - Lightning Ridge and Mintabie, Australia.
The world famous black opal field of Lightning Ridge was discovered in 1903 and is still producing many beautiful gems. The discovery of light opal in 1915 made famous the name of one of the most hostile and remote places on the Australian continent - Coober Pedy, the largest opal producing centre on earth.
Coober Pedy, an Aboriginal name meaning "White man in a hole", adequately describes the mines and miners' dwellings - burrows dug into the scarp, in order to escape the soaring temperatures of the day and the freezing winds at night.