Famous Opals in Australian Opal Mining History

famous opals in Australian history

There have been many famous Opals discovered throughout time in Australia’s history of Opal mining. Some more impressive than others. Here is just a handful of the biggest and most famous Opals that have been discovered in Australia.

Olympic Australis

famous opals olympic australis

Olympic Australis Opal (courtesy of Altmann & Cherny)

  • Weight - 3450 grams (That’s 17,250 cts!)

  • Dimensions - 280mm (L) x 120mm (H) x 115mm (W)

  • Found - 1956

One of the most valuable and famous Opals ever discovered in the world is the Olympic Australis opal which was found in Coober Pedy (South Australia) in 1956 at the ‘Eight Mile’ Opal field. This stone weighs approximately 3.4 kilograms is a vital part of the Altmann & Cherny Collection based in Melbourne. The stone was named after the Olympic Games which were being held in Melbourne the same year as this Opal was discovered. It’s current estimated value is said to be over $2,500,000AUD.

Aurora Australis

famous opals - Aurora Australis

  • Weight - 180 carats

  • Dimensions - 3inches (L) x 1.8inches (W)

  • Found - 1938

The ‘Aurora Australia’ is considered the world’s most valuable Black Opal. It was discovered in Lightning Ridge, NSW in 1938 from an old sea bed. The harlequin pattern with dominant blue, green and red colours on a black background resembles the bright southern lights which is how the opal got its name the ‘Aurora Australis’. It was purchased by Altmann and Cherny and was cut and polished into an oval shape from it’s original semi rough form. This is arguably the most impressive of all the famous opals.

Worth an estimated $1,000,000AUD

The Black Prince

famous opals - The Black Prince Opal

The Black Prince Opal

  • Weight - 181 carats

  • Dimensions - 3inches (L) x 1.8inches (W)

  • Found - 1915

The ‘Black Prince’ which is usually referred to as ‘The Harlequin Prince’ is a famous Opal that weighs 181 carats. It was found by Tom Urwin and Ted Brow in 1915 at Phone Line located in Lightning Ridge. It was obtained in England by the New York’s Museum (Natural History Museum) where it displayed today.

The famous Opal has a flag pattern on one side and a red colour on the other.

Pride of Australia

famous opals - Pride of Australia Opal

Pride of Australia Opal (courtesy of resources, nsw.gov.au )

  • Weight - 225 carats

  • Dimensions - 2inches (L) x 3 inches (W)

  • Found - 1915

The ‘Pride of Australia’ Opal is a double-bordered stone which weighs 225 carats. which is housed in the USA’s Forest Lawn Museum. It is also know as the ‘Red Emperor and was discovered in 1915 by Tom Urwin and Snowy Brown. It was traded in 1954 for $150,000. The same Phone Line piece also generated the Empress of Australia’s, a 110 carat designer stone which is referred as the ‘Flamingo Opal’.

This Opal is shaped like the continent and has black and blue veins crossed with bright red streaks through the double sided 225 carat stone.

The Fire Queen

Weight - 900 carats

Found - 1906

Charlie Dunstan found the ‘Dunstan’s Stone’ which was later renamed to ‘The Fire Queen’ at the Angledool Diggings. It weighed approximately 900 carats. It was the largest nobby found to date - alive with colour - “truly a marvelous gem, too beautiful for words!”

After selling the stone the an unknown buyer for a mere 100 pounds, it is said that Dunstan was found dead in his hut. The stone changed hands several times, each time the new buyer found it difficult to sell the Opal as it was large and there was not a great demand for big black Opals in those days.

In 1928 it was placed in the Chicago Museum, valued at £40,000 where it was renamed ‘The Fire Queen” . In the 1940’s it was then resold to J.D. Rockefeller who donated the Opal to his prestigious family collection. He purchased it for £75,000.

Galaxy Opal

famous opals - Galaxy Opal

Galaxy Opal

  • Weight - 3749 carats

  • Dimensions - 14 x 10.2 x 4.1cm

  • Found - 1976

The world’s largest polished famous Opal is The Galaxy Opal which was found in Brazil in 1976. It was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1992. It weighs approximately 3,749 carats and was carved from a grapefruit-sized piece of rough opal weighing 5,205 carats by Scott Cooley.


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