This ring forms part of a collection of 154 gems bequeathed to the V&A by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, a cleric and poet. Sir A. H. Church gave additional specimens in 1913. He also compiled the first catalogue Precious Stones: A Guide to the Townshend Collection. The first edition appeared in 1883. The stones are mounted as rings, although they may not have been intended to be worn.
Opal is created when water containing microscopically small spheres of silica settles in cavities and veins in the Earth. Opals occur in a great variety of body colours. Those with an iridescent play of colour are known as ‘precious’, those without are termed ‘common’. Opals contain up to 10% water. This makes them particularly vulnerable to damage from dehydration and from immersion in some cleaning products.