rough opals from Lightning Ridge,Australia
Rough Black opals

  From The opal Mines To Completion

Rough opals are uncut stone direct from the opal mines. Rough opal are uncut and unshaped gemstones, which are sold after cleaning, to either opal cutters who are using them for a hobby, or for serious professional cutters who on-sell the completed stones to jewelers and opal manufacturers. Australian opal mines are the source of most of the worlds production of opals, being over 90% of the supplies. Opal rough can come in all colors and shades. Broadly speaking, white and crystal opal rough comes from the Coober Pedy fields in South Australia, black opal comes from Lightning Ridge in NSW, and boulder opal comes from Queensland.

Parcel of white rough opals and crystal opal rough from south Australia
Parcel of white rough opals and crystal opal rough from S.A.

Feeding the Rough Opal Jewelry manufacturers

For successful gemstone jewelry production, it’s necessary to have a regular supply of stones and this can be a problem with rough opals at present. In the case of gemstones such as sapphires, diamonds, rubies, etc, this is not such a big problem because there are usually good supplies of these stones available from distributors in standard mm sizes and colors so that most designs can be catered for. However in the case of opals, because each opal is different and the colors are so varied that, at times it’s difficult to do multiples of a particular design. This applies mostly to black and boulder opals. In the case of white or crystal opal, the supplies are more consistent and the colors similar so that an opal manufacturer can set up a production line, using standard castings.

Variations of Rough Opals

Quality of rough opal varies from one parcel to another. This is the challenge that is met by the opal cutter.

  • Mine Run – Uncut rough opals sourced directly from the mine. Cutting process requires more than beginner knowledge and is harder with such opals because the color is often not obvious and mistakes can be made in the buying process unless you have a lot of experience.
  • Off Cuts – Off cuts are rough opals that remain after the miner has removed lucrative opal components from the stone. This type of rough opal is what is left over after the top quality gems have been sold. You might think that you are getting someone else’s rejects but this is often not the case because it could be that the cutter has a particular high grade market and he makes his money out of the tops tones. What is left can still be really good opal and not so expensive. If the opal miner or opal cutter does not have a current market for this material, you can pick up a bargain that will suit your needs.
  • Rubs – These are cleaned and shaped rough opals that have the color exposed and most of the rubbish removed. This is a less risky way of buying rough and is also very economical to send through the post. There is no point in paying freight for material that is no good to cut unless you are using it to practice, which of course is a good idea if you are just learning.
Peter with Jim a Lightning Ridge opal miner
Peter with Jim a Lightning Ridge opal miner

Choosing Rough Opals

Buying rough opals can be risky and is open to quite a lot of interference from shady dealers. Some opals are OK as long as they are in water, but as soon as they are removed they can crack and fall to pieces. ‘Hydroplane’ opal can be very risky. It mostly comes from other parts of the world but there are some fields in Australia that produces them as well.  Australia has a good reputation for producing stable opal although there are some fields that can give trouble, so if you are buying rough opals, try to deal with opal people who have a good reputation and will look after you in case you lose money.

Where the Opals come from

Watch a video with an opal miner underground at Lightning Ridge here

 

42 Responses to “Rough Opals”

  1. Opal Wholesale

    I really like rough opals and want to thank you for your cool article here.
    Thanks
    Opal Wholesale

    Reply
    • admin

      Thanks Marty. Do you have a copy of the ‘opal bloke’ CD ? It gives you over 30 years of experience in dealing with rough opal as well as a heap of other stuff. you can get it for free with $120 worth of rough opal. Easy to double your money on that. The details are somewhere on the site where it discusses rough opal. best wishes Marty, Peter

      Reply
  2. YESHALEM ABEW

    I am from Adis Abeba Ethiopia exporting welo delanta opal to different part of the world for three years but as I see your experience is very big,so what I need is please share your golden experience to me and like me from less developed countries with big undiscovered resources.
    Thank you
    Yeshalem

    Reply
    • admin

      Yeshalem, i have tried cutting wello opal many times and it always cracks after a while. some say they have tried some that remains stable. if you like you can send me a few pieces for testing so that i can comment on it at this forum. the other problem is, how do you value it? the last samples i received were full of cracks and only good for specimens. i need samples that will cut complete stones to test it properly.

      Reply
    • admin

      Maureen: This is an example of the type of misinformation that is promoted about opal. Just click here for information about opal care . There’s no problem putting opal in water. the only thing you have to be careful of is if you have an opal triplet, which is an opal with a clear crystal cap to protect it. if you constantly put stones like this in hot and detergent water, it can lift the cap off. So if you like, take a picture of your opal and submit it on this forum. i will take a look at it and let you know what you have and what to do to take care of it. but in the meantime, please read the information in the link provided.

      Reply
  3. Tina Hart

    could you give me some advice on where to buy from the mines direct so i can get uncut boulder opal? i am not a dealer. but i am interested in opals. i used to make jewelry and would like to try my hand at it. I s there mines tha will ship you small quantities fro hobby? or do you have to find a miner that sells his own stones?

    Reply
    • opalmine

      Tina, yes, we can help you. We are opal miners as well as processors and we distribute rough opal throughout the world. However, keep in mind that it’s almost impossible to deal with rough boulder opal unless it has at least been broken down into manageable pieces and preferably cleaned up so you know what you are getting. If you buy it by the kilo, you could end up with no color at all, and a big bill for the freight. At times we can supply mine run material at your own risk but usually we sell what we call ‘rubs’. Here is a recent example which has now sold: http://www.opals.co/shop/boulder-opal-rough-blr005/ The wholesale price of this parcel was $6000. You just have to let me know an approximate budget and i can suggest something. If you do your own setting, keep in mind that you can also get unset stones. Send me an email to peter@opalmine.com to discuss it further. Best wishes Tina, Peter

      Reply
    • opalmine

      Tina, please email me direct. peter@opalmine.com regarding rough opal supplies . we are mining boulder opal at present and will have some stock to offer. best wishes, Peter

      Reply
  4. doc hock

    love your web site peter, great opal images and information

    Reply
    • opalmine

      thankyou for the nice comments doc, we try our best to please

      Reply
    • opalmine

      Doc, thats a great name! I heard you are a computer diongnostician if there is such a word. Doctor of the Poot (computer) thanks for your nice comments.

      Reply
    • Peter

      Ashok, $15 per oz you wont get much opal color. mainly just a little. I will send you an email. Peter

      Reply
  5. Ken

    Hello, I live in the U.S.
    I am interested in buying a small amount of opal in the 100 to 200 per ounce range.
    Is it possible to buy just an ounce or so?

    Thank you.
    Ken.

    Reply
    • Peter

      Sure Ken, just give me a budget to work to and i will suggest a parcel. The rule is of course, the higher the grade, the less opal you will get so it might be an idea to let me know where you are up to in regard to cutting and polishing the stones. If you are a beginner its best to practice on the low grades and get more stones. And its better to buy rubs rather than rough so you know basically what you are getting and you are not paying freight for a lot of weight. I will email you direct and we can talk further by email. Just tried to post a link to my eBook here but the link did not work so i will email it to you. best wishes Ken, Peter

      Reply
  6. Anita Groeneveld

    Hey! So this seems like a great website…..so what is the most amazing piece of opal you have ever seen in the rough?

    Reply
  7. Patrick

    Hello Peter
    My name is Patrick and I’m a French craftsman I would like to know with which gritt you finish the polishing which
    are your sale prices for rough opals

    Reply
  8. Heath

    Hello,
    Great items…I need some advice from someone who knows about opals. I have purchased and sold but I’m not an expert by no means. A friend of mine was showing me his rock and fossil collection that mostly was of arrowheads and fossils. He then handed me something he got from his grandfather who had passed. It was an opal with very few scrapes showing its fire here and there. It was about the size of a tennis ball. I guess it was a crystal opal. Not sure he had any other details. It looked solid all around. How could I find any other info out about this item? Thanks Heath

    Reply
    • Peter

      Heath, are you able to get a picture of the stone? was it a pale colored opal or brown with signs of color? If its pale it would be a white or crystal opal and it would be unusual to get a crystal opal that large. If brown its a boulder opal and they can come in any size. just a few more details but if you are sending a picture be sure to reduce the size to around 300 pixels. Peter

      Reply
  9. ina

    Hi.
    It is “Sokas” company from Armenia.
    Our company basically occupied with the export of gem-quality mineral of obsidian. But if you are interested the other stones, except obsidian, we can export travertin, jade, gohar, marble, onyx, jasper, agate, breccia and so many others…We have gohar, too…Gohar is the original and precious stone and spread only Armenia.We have granite too, but our granite not a qualified. We have so beutiful items made of that stones…
    If you are interested in our proposal, write us. I send you stones pics too…

    Best regards Ina Hovhannisyan

    

    Reply
  10. Sarah

    I have a few raw and uncut opals that belonged to my grandfather… if I remember the story correctly, he brought them home from New Mexico (over 40-50 years ago) or something along those lines.. I have been looking for someone who can help me find out the value or someone who will purchase them… I live in Las Vegas and haven’t had any luck in finding anybody to help me out.. They are still in the actual rock and seem to be a bit more white in color, tho there are a few that seem to be more vibrant in their color…Do you think there is anything u can do to help me find more info or someone who can help me???

    Reply
    • Peter

      Sarah, i am pleased to help you with the rough opal if i can. First you have to get some really good pictures of the stones from different angles. You will need a good macro camera and you will need to control the light so that the color is not overexposed. take the pictures inside with fleuro lights and load them into a graphics program and reduce the size to around 500 pixels before sending. you will need a tripod to get clear shots. just email them to me using the email address at the top right hand side of the opalmine site. Once i get a look at them i will be able to advise you. Hope that helps, Peter

      Reply
  11. Toni

    Sarah I also have Opal that my late father bought in the early 1980′s. There were in Alker Shelzer bottles priced at $ 25.00 for a few stones, beautiful fire. May I send you photos?

    Reply
    • Peter

      just use the email contact top right hand side of the page in red. then we can talk about receiving images. Sorry, your name is Toni. not sure where the Sarah name came from, peter

      Reply
    • Peter

      the email address you have is wrong. i cant post it here because of spam problems. just use the encrypted address shown to the top right.

      Reply
  12. Mary

    I have rough cut opals, purchased by my late husband in Mexico 27 years ago and they have been in a container in water all this time. They look fine to me, but what do you think about them being stored that way?

    Reply
    • admin

      Mary, its always OK to store opals in water whether they are cut and polished opals or rough opals, Of course the real test is if they are left out of water for a considerable time to see if they crack. Generally Mexican opals are quite secure. Peter

      Reply
    • admin

      Tre: regarding your rough opals, email me the pictures to the red email address on the front page of http://www.opalmine.com but make sure they are clear and reduced in size to around 1000 pixels. best wishes, Peter

      Reply
  13. stephen

    l need blue opal rough uncut. lf anyone have it should kindly contact me on +2348034339162. l want to buy.

    Reply
    • admin

      Stephen, regarding blue opal rough. Do you want crystal opal, black opal, or boulder opal? And do you want light blue or dark blue and does it matter if its blue green. most blue opal comes with flashes of green. Opal in general is getting scarcer so it will probably be difficult but i will see what can be done. thanks Stephen, peter

      Reply
  14. jessey

    I currently have a 10kt opal I am trying to sell but dont know where/who to sell it to an I need money.

    Reply
  15. jessey

    If interested contact me at (951)210-6102 an I live in california if your wondering

    Reply
    • admin

      Jessey regarding your opal. try to get some good close up shots of it using natural shaded light on a white background. reduce the picture size to around 1000 pixels and send it to me here . click on the red email on the front page of http://www.opalmine.com Peter

      Reply
    • admin

      Julieth, hope you find a market for it. This type of opal is called potch in Australia because we are looking to find multiple colors but this green one color opal is very pretty. sort of like a light colored jade similar in color to peridot. Best wishes Julieth. Peter

      Reply

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