What to Know
- Brian Berger, a Philadelphia-area gemologist, purchased a piece of opal with a fossilized insect trapped inside.
- Scientists estimate that the insect may have become encased in the opal millions of years ago.
- Berger plans to name the opal "Beverly" in honor of his grandmother.
What is millions of years old and is trapped inside of a rare gem?
Not sure? We aren't either.
But that's exactly the question a local gem dealer is trying to answer after discovering an unidentified insect fossilized in a rare piece of opal.
Brian Berger, a Philadelphia-area gemologist, purchased the artifact after taking a trip to the Indonesian island of Java. Now, he is reaching out for help in identifying the mystery bug.
“I’ve gotten 100 emails from different entomologists,” Berger said. “I’m trying to figure out who the right people to do the job are.”
Berger told NBC10 he has been in communication with scientists from France, Germany, and Australia.
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The discovery is an uncommon one for several reasons. Scientists estimate that the insect may have become encased in the opal millions of years ago.
In a blog post written by Berger, he analyzes the bug’s physical characteristics, describing it as having an open mouth and “fibrous structures extending from the appendages.”
He also says it is likely that the critter became trapped by tree sap or resin, which then fossilized into amber.
Because the insect appears to be fully intact, Berger believes that the amber subsequently opalized, preserving the bug. Opal is formed when water runs down through the earth, carrying silica from sandstone into the earth’s cracks. After the water evaporates, the opal remains.
This case has left many in the scientific community scratching their heads. Jon Gelhaus, curator of entomology at Drexel University, believes that there simply aren’t enough details to identify the specimen yet.
“It certainly looks insect-like. It’s an oddity,” he said after viewing a photo of the artifact.
Berger plans to name the opal "Beverly" in honor of his grandmother.
“[She] was a unique gem just like this one,” he told NBC10.