Opal Picture guide

Opal Picture Guide
Lightning Ridge Black Opal Picture guide for the major groups

Opal Picture Guide: This guide will help identify the different types and show how to recognize them. We first start with Lightning Ridge Black Opal. Visit the opalmine shop here

Black Opal, when found with a natural black or dark background, is called ‘black opal’. This background can range from pitch black to grey giving the stone are dark-ish appearance and when seen from the top is opaque [Not allowing light to pass through].

It is the dark background which allows the brilliant colors. Black opal can be any color. The specimen pictured has a dominant color of blue. It is approximately 1-1/2 cm in length.[This particular stone has now sold].

Opal Picture Guide
crystal opal carving from Lightning Ridge

Opal Picture Guide-Dark Opal Dark opal is found on most fields. It’s background color ranges from grey to near black.. Black opals are in the same family as Dark opals (also opaque- not allowing light to pass through). They are just dark opals with a blacker background.

As the background of this stone becomes lighter and grayer it gets closer to light opal and its sometimes difficult to decide whether a dark opal should be categorized as dark or light. It’s often in the eye of the beholder.

Opal Picture Guide:The Difference between Lightning Ridge and Boulder black opal

Opal Picture Guide
Example of contrasting colors in boulder opal
Opal Picture Guide
Brilliant red blue green boulder opal

Boulder Opal
A form of black or dark opal although it must be said that there are light colored boulder opals as well as dark and black. Boulder opals are still attached to the mother rock that they were born in.

The latest Opal Nomenclature identifies Boulder opal as being black opal as well. The term ‘black opal’ does not identify the origin of the stone but rather its appearance.

Boulder opals often have the same dense color as Lightning Ridge stones and hence are placed in the category of Black Opals. Most (but not all) boulder opals have flat tops and stones from Lightning Ridge are often high domed.

However Boulders often have more denseness and brilliance than gems from Lightning Ridge at a more competitive price. Boulder gems often have ironstone inclusions in the foreground which reduces their price but in the opinion of many, add to the personality of the stone. Video of high grade black boulder opal

Opal Picture Guide
Yowah nut opal

Yowah opal: This is a variety of boulder opal that comes in the form of small ‘nut-like’ lumps that, when cut, have layers of ironstone mixed with color and sometimes, rarely, a kernel of precious opal. These beautiful pieces are collectors items, each one totally unique in the world. examples shown here.

Opal Picture Guide
Boulder Opal specimen
Opal Picture guide: Boulder Opal Specimen

From the Quilpie opal fields in western Queensland. Often these specimens are left exactly as they have been found in the ground and are used for display purposes in people’s gemstone collections.

Because Boulder opal, as far as we know, is only found in one place on the planet, that is Queensland, Australia, you can imagine that specimens like this are in high demand

Opal Picture Guide
Five chunks of boulder opal split from one large piece

Split faced boulder As the title indicates, this is a boulder opal that has been split along the vein of color, resulting in two identical pieces, one concave and one convex.

This amazing natural appearance results in an identical pair that can be used as earrings if they are small enough or for specimen collectors. This pair comes into the second category as they would be a bit much to wear on the ears.

Opal Picture Guide
Interesting lines of color in boulder opal

Opal Picture guide: Boulder opal Abstracts

(this is our terminology and is not an official description) but we feel that it best describes the endless varieties of these unusual opals often call ‘fun stones’, an expression that really doesn’t tell you anything about what they are.

Please note that the boulder opals in this video have sold. Please go here to see more

Take a look here at our gallery of picture stones, if you have not already done so.

Opal Picture Guide
Koala carving from solid white opal
Opal Picture Guide
boulder opal Indian chief
Opal Picture Guide
Boulder opal Turtle

Opal Picture guide: Opal Carvings

As the term suggests, opal, both boulder ironstone and white or black opal is often used to carve figurines.

Opal Picture Guide
Opal ‘pair of sheep’
Opal Picture Guide
Giraffe skin
Opal Picture Guide
“The Shrimp”
Opal Picture Guide
Opal ‘bird’
Opal Picture Guide
‘the Slipper’
Opal Picture Guide
Rainbow drop
Opal Picture Guide
Opal Cascades

Picture Stones
have received this name because from time to time as an opal is opened up from inside a boulder opal (particularly) or a black opal, something comes out that amazingly looks like an item from nature, such as an animal, a rainbow, a bird, a fish, etc. the variety is endless.

Opal Picture Guide
the Opal Rose – crystal or white opal

White Opal A solid opal with an opaque [non see-through] light background. White opal is often called milk opal because of its light appearance.

Crystal opal is of the same family but it is more translucent and sometimes transparent whereas the color of white opal is on the surface.

This type of opal can appear in all fields but Coober Pedy is famous for it. Some people prefer the more delicate, less dramatic appearance of the white opal. Crystal opal holds a certain fascination because the eye is able to look deep into the stone and gaze at its internal mysteries.

Opal Picture Guide
Opal crystal
Opal Picture Guide
Jelly crystal

Light Opal crystal (sometimes called ‘jelly’ opal) This type of opal does not have a dark or black background and hence has a more delicate, less dramatic appearance because the surface is not opaque and the light is able to shine either right through the stone, or at least INTO it


Opal Picture Guide
Dark Opal
Opal Picture Guide
Large slab of Dark Opal

Dark Opal Crystal This is when the crystal opal has a darker appearance within it’s body. Dark opal describes the in-between status of the stone.

Its not white opal and its not black opal, its a progression between the two types. This illustrates the marvelous complexity of the opal stone and the difficulty we have in arriving at accurate definitions.

When its all boiled down, opal is at the mercy of the beholder. What appeals to one person will not be as appealing to another. But isn’t that what life is all about? We are open to choices.


Opal Picture Guide
Andamooka “painted lady” specimen

Andamooka Painted Lady This stone is what could be called the South Australian ‘boulder opal’. Not because it is boulder ironstone but because it comes in large chunks like boulder and is often split out of the ground along the lines of color.

It is pale in appearance but sometimes has some dark potch in the background of the color which gives it an attractive feature and is another example of a type of black opal because any opal with a black background is in this category.


Opal Picture Guide
Opal Mosaic turtle brooch
Opal Picture Guide
18×13 mm mosaic opals

Mosaic Opal
The previously described opals are all naturally formed. Mosaic opal is created by a skilled artist who assembles the small pieces of natural opal into a mosaic pattern.

These Slivers of genuine opal are assembled into an irregular tiled pattern with rivers of black potch framing each unique opal tile.

Mosaic opals make stunning stones for all types of jewelry and allow the jeweler to include a wide range of colors within an affordable piece.

This assembly of small opal pieces is not to be confused with the Harlequin opal which features squarish spangles of color appearing naturally in the opal face. It is the rarest and most expensive opal.

Opal Picture Guide
Yowah matrix
Opal Picture Guide
Yowah Matrix
Opal Picture Guide
‘eye’ of opal
Opal Picture Guide
green opal matrix
Opal Picture Guide
Boulder pair
Opal Picture Guide
matrix specimens

Matrix Opal This type of opal comes in two categories namely:


Opal Picture Guide
Fish carving

Boulder Matrix which is a completely natural stone made up of boulder ironstone with flecks of precious opal showing throughout the stone.

These come in endless varieties from Winton to Yowah and Koroit. Usually found in association with boulder opal which tends to have larger faces of opal found in veins, whereas the matrix opal color is scattered throughout the body of the mother ironstone.

These amazing opals come in such variety and are much sought after by opal collectors.

Opal Picture Guide
Large Andamooka Matrix Specimen

Andamooka Matrix is a natural stone that, when it comes out of the ground is quite pale in appearance. By impregnating it with a black carbon process, the stone turns dark and when cut and polished, takes on the appearance of black opal.

However, keep in mind that even though the stone is natural, there is a man made treatment involved which has to be stated at point of sale.

Composite Opals are natural opals that have been assembled with a dark or black background that is cemented in place so that the stone takes on the appearance of black opal.

Opal is one of the only stones that can cater both for someone who can afford a large amount of money or someone who only has a few dollars.

Composite opals such as doublets, triplets, and mosaics are still real opals and can be stated as such with the qualification that they have been assisted by man with the installation of a dark backing, or in the case of triplets, with a crystal protective cap as well. for further general research on gemstones click here


We hope that you have benefited by this picture guide to the opal.


104 Responses

  1. Dear mr. Peter,

    Could you tell me something?.
    I found a nice ring, in the cycle.
    I am curious if this is opal
    Would you please. with your expert eyes,want to take a look at this?
    The color remains the same under water.

    How beautiful your expertise.
    My heartfelt thanks in advance.

    1. Mary, sorry voor het late antwoord. ik heb je post gemist. stuur alsjeblieft een foto van je opaal naar dit forum en ik zal een kijkje nemen, Peter

  2. Dear Sir or Madam,Hi Peter!
    Hope you can help me to find out if this opals are natural Stones and maybe where there from? If the picture is not good enough, please let me know!

    Thank you very much in advance, stay save and best regards manon


  4. My mother wore this ring for about twenty years that I can remember almost all the time. What do I use to clean; you can see dirt around one of the side prongs (looks like triangle with prong going through center). The opal measures approximately 12mm x 5mm and is about 4mm high. Thank you!

    1. Reading through realize pics might not be close enough so here is another set. The pinking purple pic is with the flash on. No idea what this opal is or where mother acquired, just that she loved it and wore it almost always.

      1. Hi my names analyse. My grandad gave this to my brother when we were little and have just come across it, I was wondering if its real and worth anything?
        Thankyou 🙂

  5. Dear Sirs, we are looking for solid opals,small size ( 4-8mm ).Cut:rectangular,trilliant,round. 20-30 pices each order. Colour( very important !!!! ):like your picture in your site ” doublet parcel” we mean: intense blue Crystal. Best regards MB

    1. Sorry, didn’t get your name. no problems regarding rough. i will send you an email to make contact. Peter

  6. Peter – cracking website. so informative – thank you! I’ve got a Percy Marks stick pin in the family, which I believe may be black opal. Any guidance you can provide would be well received! the stone itself is about 1.3cm x 0.8cm. maybe 0.3cm deep. From the front, the stone has an almost uniform green/blue ‘flash’, but viewed through the backside of the stone is a muted purplish pink – will send pictures through!
    Keep up the good work! Best regards

    1. Robin its difficult to see whether its a solid opal or a doublet. its pretty well impossible unless its taken out of its setting. If it is opal it could either be a doublet or a solid black or boulder opal.

  7. Hi peter here is some new clear photos. i wonder if this opal is worth something and what kind of boulder opal it is, thanks. here is one of the opal

  8. Hi! I got this boulder opal from my grandmother before she past away, She did buy it in austrailia about 40-50 years ago. the smaller opal weight is 0,330 gram.
    i wounder how much this stone is worth, thanks.

  9. hello, I recently received this opal pendant as a gift and I have no idea what kind of opal it is. Any thoughts? Thanks for your help.

    1. Sophie, i cant really tell by looking at the picture but it looks like its from the Coober Pedy field in Australia. Its a really interesting opal with striped pattern.

    1. Rob, regarding your opal, i will ask our site manager to find out why you could not post it. the program is supposed to reduce the size automatically. in the meantime i will send you an email and explain how you can reduce the size. Peter

  10. A few years ago I purchased some opal still in the matrix from an old collector. I ground away the matrix with a flex shaft tool. Most was light blue, but this one piece was different. I hand lapped and polished it. I don’t think I have polished it to it’s full potential, but I am really afraid to go further myself. ( I work mainly in agate). What is it, and is it worth have a professional cutter look at it to see if the polish can be improved? I left the matrix on the back, it is light colored.

    1. Frank, this is a typical example of a black or dark opal from the Mintabie opal field in South Australia, north of the Coober Pedy mine. Its a lovely piece. just clean the back up a bit but dont cut it two thin. its perfectly ok to leave the white sandstone type material on the back as long as you clean it back to reasonably smooth. no need to put a high polish on it. not sure of the quality of your polish on the front but you will need to finish it off with a paste of cerium oxide. if you need some help with cutting click here the color looks to be worth in the vicinity of three to four hundred dollars per carat. not sure of the weight but if that is a dime coin next to it, its probably around 7 carats. so it could be worth around $3000 cant tell exactly. Hope that helps. peter

  11. Hi – have had this ring for about 15 years, apparently set by my Nan in around 1970 from a Coober Pedy opal my Dad sent her when he was living there…any insights as far as the value goes? I know it’s probably hard to tell just from a picture but I noticed how helpful you’ve been with other commenters and thought it worth a go! It’s set in 14k gold. Thanks 🙂

    1. Jacqui, it sure is a nice piece. Probably crystal opal from Andamooka in South Australia. From the picture it looks like its a doublet because most Andamooka opal is crystal and hence more pale, unless its an Andamooka black opal. Cant really tell from the picture. if you look at the back and its either a grey or black color, its more than likely a doublet and would be worth around $1500. If its a black opal its worth more like $5000 but i doubt it. Hope that helps. Peter
      PS. Jacqui, if you get some time please Please follow and rate opalmine by clicking here
      Or paste this into your browser:

      It helps us continue this free service. best wishes

  12. Hello. I found your site after I took this photo a ring that was my Grandmother’s for a photo project. I realized I really don’t know much about the ring, how old, what kind of opals, etc. I do know it is quite old but that’s about it. I just love this ring and would love any information you might be able to provide.
    Thank you so much!

    1. Leslie, the opal ring you sent a picture of is a cluster of solid white or crystal opals from the Coober Pedy field in South Australia. I cant tell you the age of the ring but nowadays it would sell retail possibly for around $500 to $700 in my opinion. Hope that helps, peter

  13. Chanced upon your site while searching for a way to safely clean Opal jewelry. Learned a Lot… Outstanding site. I read many of the comments back and forth and must say that you do a wonderful job of assisting your contacts. I will be checking in every once in a while and will probably become a customer. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise in such a down to earth manner. Easily understood and extremely helpful.

  14. Hi, I tried to match this with all opals, not quite sure what type is this, the fire rolling all over the top is quite amazing. I know it’s an opal, just no idea what type. Please help!

    1. Mandy the opal face is not clearly seen but it could be a treated opal from Andamooka in south Australia. They come out of the ground a pale color and after carbon treatment they take on a black opal appearance. Thats the best i can say without a clearer picture. hope that helps, peter

      PS.Please go to https://plus.google.com/102995504959810313699/about?hl=en and give us a follow and rating. it helps us continue with this free service. thanks Mandy

        1. Mandy this looks like a high qualiy black opal from Lightning Ridge. Of course i cant tell without having it outside its setting but i am pretty sure it is. Its very high quality and could be worth in the vicinity of $1000. Incidentally, to help our site so that we can continue giving this free service please go to: https://plus.google.com/102995504959810313699/about?hl=en and give us a follow and a rating. it helps us in the search engines. very best wishes, peter

  15. Hello,
    This opal ring has been in the family for quite some time. It’s flat cut on top, slightly ruff and is an older setting that may be from the 1930’s (?). I have never had anyone look at it. It’s quite large – 3 cm x 1.5 cm. My mother wore this as a cocktail ring. Can you tell me anything about it? Thanks so much!

    1. Chad, it sure is an amazingly large opal. its difficult to tell what type of opal it is but by the color and the shape, it seems to be a boulder opal, from either the Quilpie or Winton area in western Queensland. I would say, if the setting is 14 or 18k gold, it would be worth around $3000 retail. If its silver or silver gold plated you could reduce that by around $500. This is only an approximate without actually seeing the ring. Hope that helps. Best wishes Chad. Peter

  16. IM sorry, do you mean the color fades after it’s removed from the water? If so, it looks like it fades slightly and then does return when dry.

  17. Thank you. I received this ring in new condition about 1 month ago. When I put it under water, the color actually increases. Especially the red/orange.

    1. regarding opal color. dont know Arlene. i have no experience with hydrophane opal. but if the color comes back, thats great!

  18. Thank you Peter. I have only had this ring about a month, I noticed yesterday that when I run my nail across the surface, I can feel some fine “scratches” … I am worried about the fragility. But I also want to wear it as much as I can, while taking the best care of it. Can you give me any advice? Ideally, the only time I will remove it is at work because of hygiene (I’m a nurse) … also I often use alcohol based hand sanitizer and wash my hands many times throughout the day. Will this harm the stone? I am attaching some more pictures so that you can see how high the dome is. Also, the picture from underneath — can you tell if this is a solid stone and not a triplicate? Thank you so much. And how do I clean it? I also have another milkier white oval pendant opal that is about 100 years old, I want to be able to take the best care of these opals as they are my birthstone, as well as my daughters, they will be hers one day. Thank you for your help in sharing your expertise and knowledge. Arlene

    1. Its a solid opal Arlene, but i am not sure of the origin of the stone. If you put it in water and the color fades, it will be an Ethiopian opal so you have to take extra care of it. they are called hydrophane opals. they say the color returns when it dries out but i would be careful. how long have you had it? that will give me a clue because these type of opals have only been sold in the last 5 years or so commercially. Australian opal is not effected by water or just about anything else but its always wise to be a bit careful wearing expensive rings of any kind in work situations. you can easily dislodge a claw and lose a stone.

    1. Arlene this is a really nice high domed crystal opal ring probably originating from either the cooper pedy or lightning ridge opal fields. orange-green. Of course without analyzing it properly, this is the best i can say. it could come from somewhere else as well, but that’s my opinion. Let me know if i can help further. but hope that gives you an idea, Best regards, Peter

  19. Hello I brought an opal and tested it under a black light (ultra violet light) after I turned the light off the stone continued to glow for a few seconds after. Is this normal or could it be a fake?

  20. hi peter is this a boulder opal? I have others I took pics of too but you only allow one photo to be uploaded! will post a few more after this

    1. Luke, Yes, this is a boulder opal probably from the Winton field, western Queensland but of course it could also come from Quilpie or Koroit.

    1. the picture is too dark to identify it but i have tried to lighten it and it looks like a very large crystal opal. i would guess that it could be from Africa although it could come from and of the australian fields as well. difficult to tell its value without much better pictures.

    2. “opal picture” not good enough to identify it accurately but it looks like a very large piece of crystal opal probably from Africa but it could come from any of the Australian fields as well.