a strange, true story about a magic stone - shrouded in superstition, mystery, and wonder

The Gemstone from the Fish’s Head


It happened some two years ago. I remember that day very clearly. It faintly sparkled on the palm of her hand. A yellowish glow emanated from the object, as dusk fell plunging our sleeping room into a velvet purple penumbra.

“Where did you get that from,” I asked Maureen, who stood next to me.

“You won’t believe it,” she said. “I found it when slicing through a big ‘Sultan’ fish, the fish I had bought this morning on the fish market. It fell out off the fish’s head."

“Unbelievable,” I mumbled, whilst observing the gem’s opalizing sparkles. Many years ago, I had studied mineralogy to some extent, but never had I come across a piece of shiny material such as the one in front of my eyes. It vaguely resembled an opal.

“Let’s put it to a secure spot,” I said.

That’s what we did. I found a little empty jewel box, and we placed the gem on a piece of cotton. The little box was placed among others, and, given our busy lives, we forgot about its very existence. We moved several times, and even thought we had lost it.

Last week, however, Maureen told me that she had found the gem again.

“I wanted to have it cast into a golden ring, and went to the Chinese gold market, together with my cousin Lahong. It is the area at the corner of Jalan Raja Brooke. We entered a gold smith’ workshop and the smith immediately examined the stone with an energetic determination. He tried but couldn’t hide his excitement.

“Where have you found that stone,” he inquired. “That’s what I did. I told him the story about how I found the jewel in the fish’s head.

“You cannot keep that stone,” the smith said. “It has no value as such. This stone is only for men, and it cannot be used as ring. It’s far too soft. If you want, leave me the stone, and I pay you one thousand Ringit (= USD 300) for it.

“How can it be, that the stone has no value, yet you want to pay us a substantial amount of money,” my cousin Lahong said with an ironic tone in her voice.

“The smith blushed, mumbled something Chinese, and disappeared in the rear part of his workshop. We took the jewel, left the shop, and went to another workshop. It’s the old Chinese goldsmith at the corner, where I sometimes bought jade and gold in the past.

“When we told the story about the gem, the man grew exited, and put it below his binocular microscope. I looked at it, too, as it sparkled and shone in its aura of magic.

“It is alive,” the old goldsmith whispered. “Can you see? It has a face, with eyes and ears.” I couldn’t see much, but the man appeared honest. I believed him.

“You’re a very lucky woman,” he mumbled. “I never saw anybody having that much luck. Keep that stone, hide it away, never give it away or sell it. That stone will bring you wealth, and luck throughout your life. It’s a very special gift from the sea goddess. Best you enshrine it in a small golden box, and carry it wherever you go.”

With these words she looked up to me and ended her story.

Until now, whilst writing down this experience, I don’t really know what to think of it. I had seen, and touched a ‘magic’ stone with my own hand. Could this stone somehow be a node between the real world, and the fathomless realm of magic, superstition, and wonder?

Perhaps one should, as I keep telling myself, leave judgment aside, and take this experience as it is – a wondrous story, without a clear beginning and, perhaps, no definitive ending.

© 2007 by Franz L Kessler