Australia is the largest producer of opals in the world, supplying more than 95% of all opals and opal jewellery. No other country offers as many varieties of this treasued gemstone, and Australian precious opals are renowned for holding the highest value.
Precious opal displays a unique phenomenon known as ‘play of colour’ whereby the opal diffuses light to take on an array of stunning iridescent colours as you slowly move the gemstone. It can be seen in all the following varieties of opal on offer at Opal Nation:
Black Opal is the most valued of all opals. It originates in the Lightning Ridge area in New South Wales, and less commonly in Mintabie, South Australia. These superb quality stones are exceptionally rare and one of the most sought after gemstones in the world. The term 'black opal' is distinguished by its dark body tone, ranging from dark grey to dark green to black. The darker the body tone means the opal colours and pattern will stand out, enriching the beauty of the stone. Black opal embodies a spectrum of intense colours, with red being the rarest and therefore the most expensive.
Dark opal is more commonly found in the Lightning Ridge area of New South Wales or Mintabie in South Australia. Dark opal may also be known as ‘grey opal’ or ‘semi-black opal’, which are all expressions used to describe opals with body tones lighter than black opal (see Body Tone Chart). These beautiful opals display a stand-out play of colour, owing to their darker body tone, and are more common than black opal.
Opals that have a white body tone appearance are called white opal. This type of opal is the most common, and generally originates in the South Australian opal fields such as Coober Pedy. It is more abundant than other types of opal, however this doesn’t mean that it is any less eye catching or valuable. Owing to the light body tone, white opal generally does not show the colour as well as black opal, however good quality white opal can still be absolutely magnificent in colour and are exceptionally valuable. White opal is the national gemstone of Australia.
Boulder opal originates from the outback region of Western Queensland. It is entirely unique, extremely rare and therefore one of the most valuable types of opal in the world. Naturally forming in cracks and crevices within ironstone or sandstone, it is often cut with the boulder left on the back. This type of opal is still categorised as ‘natural’ as it has not been interfered with, other than cutting and polishing the stone. Boulder opal is a great investment, as it is said to be a diminishing resource, and therefore reputed to increase in value. The body tone of boulder opal varies depending on the appearance of the stone when viewed from the surface, and the colours within are simply striking.
“For in them you shall see the living fire of ruby,
the glorious purple of the amethyst,
the sea green of the emerald,
all glittering together in an incredible mixture of light”
Written by Roman Pliny in the 1st Century AD