Australian Opal is different: What is it about Australian opal that makes it any different from any other opal found in the world? Yes, its true, even though the name Australia seems to be synonymous with opal, there are lots of places in the world that have opal in its various forms.
Historically, opal was first mined in Czechoslovakia (formerly Hungary) and for thousands of years, this was pretty well the only source of this amazing Gem. However, opal is found in places such as Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Nevada in the USA, and many other places
So what is different about Australian Opal?
The small parcel to the left is a selection of unfinished rubbed black opals from the Lightning Ridge field.
We make regular trips to the opal fields to make sure there is a constant supply of material to either make into jewelry or to on-sell to manufacturing jewelers or opal cutters.
Its a fact that over 90% of the world’s opal is found here. The opal fields stretch out over areas of the Australian outback as large as the whole of Europe and a day’s trip can span a distance of around 1500 km.
Australia is such a large dry continent and the ancient inland sea combined with the right climate has produced a gem that is more secure than most other opals. Along with this, the variety of opals found in Australia can be spread into at least three categories, along with subcategories. They are:
Black Boulder Opal from Queensland
Australian Black Boulder opal (right) is a gem found in sometimes very large, sometimes very small boulder ironstone concretions. The opal color is usually found in thin veins which are cut out using diamond saws.
The face of the stone is determined by the opal cutter, and the ironstone carefully removed, exposing the opal color which remains on a dark brown ironstone backing. Thus giving the opal its dark or black appearance.
These particular opals are becoming increasingly popular because they appeal to a very broad section of the community.
From rich people who can afford to spend 5 to $10,000 and more dollars on a clean faced gem, to average people who might be able to afford $500 to $1000, and most of us who need to limit it to around $100 or so.
These opals are amazing in that they are often featured with all sorts of interesting patterns, shapes, and shades of color which are not always opal itself.
It can be various bands of two or three-tone ironstone, along with cream or brown or green potch. These stones are really appealing to people who love the variety and natural looking jewelry right from the earth, not from a laboratory.
Black Opal from Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, Australia
This magnificent gem (left) is found in material called ‘black potch’ and is cut in much the same way as black boulder opal, the material actually being unformed opal, not ironstone.
It is not uncommon for these stones to reach prices in the $20,000 and more, but of course, there are many stones much cheaper. Usually more grey in appearance rather than black in the background.
Black Opals are found in small lumps often called ‘Nobbies’ mainly at Lightning Ridge but black opal can be found in all the fields as seam and pipe opal, both in Queensland and in South Australia at the Coober Pedy and Mintabee mines. Also, Andamooka which produces crystal and black opal.
Crystal and White Opal from Coober Pedy, South Australia (below)
Crystal opal is more traditional in that historically speaking as far as we know; all opals were once a more delicate light, often translucent color. The stone again is delightful from a different point of view.
Some folks prefer a less dramatic piece of jewelry and crystal, light, or white opal is more subdued but equally as fiery and amazing as the gem is rotated either on the finger as a ring or as a pendant around the neck.
If you would like to see any of these varieties as they look set as rings or pendants, please click here rings pendants Please note that you can select from the cheapest to the highest price in the drop-down at this link, or you can start with the most expensive if you prefer.
Australian opal has certainly come of age and has been mined in this area for over 100 years.