What collectors call “Dragon’s Breath” opal was first used in jewelry manufacture in the early 1900s. A synthetic stone, it emulates a cross between the Mexican fire opal and jelly opal.
Dragon’s Breath opal is actually Bohemian art glass, and is more equitable to costume jewelry than precious or semi-precious gemstones. Does that mean that Dragon's Breath opals are worthless? No. In fact, synthetic stones can have a high price tag, especially if they're in vintage jewelry or unique settings.
Made entirely of Czechoslovakian glass, Dragon's Breath, or "Mexican Opals," were first used in jewelry at the turn of the 20th century. Since then, they have become highly collectible and rare.
But why? And how were they made? you want to know. Me, too.
Alas, as is often the case with Bohemian art-glass, the exact recipe has been lost to history and cannot be replicated. (Dragon’s Breath has this in common with Saphiret, supposedly mixed with gold.) The Bohemians were and continue to be master alchemists—there really is no better word—with glass. They also invented lead-free crystal, and the exquisitely lavender-blue Alexandrite glass (made from slag mixed with the rare earth neodymium). Only the Anglo-Saxon recipe for opaque red glass remains as mysterious as Dragon's Breath opal.
It seems that nobody really can say much for sure about these stones, apart from 1) they were invented and produced in Czechoslovakia around 1900, and 2) we know that Dragon's Breath was made with the inclusion of a metal in the glass slag, but nobody knows what kind or in what form.
About vintage: When Dragon's Breath is set in sterling, it could well date to the early 1900s. At that time, Dragon’s Breath stones were most often set into silver.
When struck by light at different angles, Dragon’s Breath stones change from red to blue with subtle hints of other colors translating to an overall bright blue or purple hue. Vaporous flashes from within the stones are known as the “breath” from which the name is derived. These stones have NO foil backing and are transparent. They have rounded tops and flat backs (as cabochons do), rather than being faceted like a rhinestone. Many are round or oval in shape. Later pieces of classic costume jewelry made primarily during the 1950s and ‘60s also used decorative glass stones declared incorrectly by sellers as Dragon’s Breath. These are actually foiled glass cabochons rather than true Dragon’s Breath stones. If you see foil on the back of a stone, it’s not termed Dragon’s Breath. (No foil here.)
This brooch is bounded a sterling halo of attractive Greek-key motif. Including its setting, the brooch measures 1 & 5/16" (33.34mm) wide and 7/8" (22.2mm) tall. The stone, which by itself measures 24mm (.94") wide by 14 mm (.55") tall is a dome-shaped cabochon about 7mm (.27") thick at its center. DISCLOSURE: On VERY close examination, I see there are two small crescents of glass missing from one end, but this is very probably a manufacturing flaw, as they're beneath the cab setting's "collar"—an unlikely place for chips, since it is protected from impacts. This very small shortcoming is shown in photos 7-9. Price reflects adjustment for this.
The pin on this brooch is a simple hook-catch clasp, indicating an early vintage. (The rolling C-clasp became standard equipment shortly after it was patented in 1900.)
Altogether magical, and mysterious, to boot. I think I'll try to find more of these. Writing this piece up, it has thoroughly bewitched me.
Weight: 6.4 grams.
If you don't find what you're looking for posted, message me; I have much in unlisted inventory, or can scout it for you for a nominal finder's fee.
Antique Jelly Belly Dragon's Breath Opal in Sterling Greek Key Setting