The Virgin Rainbow Opal is a rare and exquisite stone, holding a universe of color within its depths just waiting to be unlocked and admired. It may not be the most expensive opal in the world (although it’s up there), but most agree that it’s the most beautiful opal ever unearthed.
The Virgin Rainbow Opal is a rare and stunning gem best known for its vibrant colors, unique patterns, and bright rainbow glow. Commonly dubbed the "Queen of Gemstones," this one-of-its-kind opal is highly prized by collectors and jewelry lovers alike for its mesmerizing color mutations and natural splendor.
So who found the Virgin Rainbow Opal, and where can you see it today? You’ll have to keep reading to find out!
Join us as we highlight everything there is to know about the Virgin Rainbow Opal, the most spectacular opal in the world.
Within the world of opals, there are two primary classifications: precious and common.
Precious opals: Precious opals are a type of opal exhibiting a phenomenon known as "play of color," a display of rainbow-like colors that change as you view the stone from different angles. This unique characteristic garners these opals a higher value.
Common opals: Common opals, on the other hand, don’t exhibit the play of color characteristics. While they can still be beautiful stones, they’re generally less valuable than precious opals.
The Virgin Rainbow Opal falls under the precious opal classification because it exhibits the highly prized play-of-color effect. As light shines through the Virgin Rainbow Opal, it comes alive with a rainbow of hues shifting and changing at every angle.
Virgin Rainbow’s spellbinding iridescence is paralleled by its mesmerizing glow. In the darkness of night, its surface shimmers even more vividly, displaying a myriad of colors ranging from electric blues and greens to fiery reds and purples.
But not all opals have the ability to fluoresce. Other opals that can glow in the dark are:
Black Opal — Also known as ‘dark opal,’ this precious opal features a dark body color, often making its fire more obvious
Fire Opal — This is a translucent or transparent opal found mainly in Mexico with coloring in red, orange, yellow, or a combination of these hues
Andean Opal — Also known as “Peruvian opal,” this is a rare common opal found only in the Andes Mountains of Peru
Matrix Opal — This refers to an opal hybrid in which precious opal is intimately distributed throughout the rock it formed inside of (its “host rock”)
After looking at the Virgin Rainbow Opal’s captivating appearance, it’s easy to wonder what lies beneath its mystifying surface.
Pictured above: SA Museum director Brian Oldman with the Virgin Rainbow Opal | Image credit: Stephen Laffer
The Virgin Rainbow Opal’s chromatic mutations and rich, colorful glow is an amazing trick of nature — but how does it happen?
Like all opals, Virgin Rainbow is formed from silica, one of the most common minerals in the Earth's crust, and water. The stone’s wondrous play-of-color is a product of light diffractions passing through the microscopic silica spheres that make up the opal.
These spheres are arranged in a uniform pattern within the opal, and as light refracts (or bends) through them at different angles, it creates an incredible, prismatic color-play.
What is so unique about the Virgin Rainbow Opal is that it seems to come alive in darkness, exploding with an otherworldly illumination and rainbow-like radiance that is nothing short of captivating.
As for size, Virgin Rainbow Opal is modestly-sized for being such an eminent stone. The gem is about as big as the average person’s thumb — measuring just 63.3 mm by 14.3 mm (2.5 in by 0.56 in). The Virgin Rainbow Opal’s weight is 72 carats (14.4 grams).
What is the largest opal ever found? We’ll talk about that in a bit! But first, let’s explore the Virgin Rainbow Opal’s epic origin story.
Pictured above: Coober Pedy fields
Virgin Rainbow Opal has achieved quite the notoriety, but you’ll be surprised to learn it’s a fairly recent discovery!
Who found the Virgin Rainbow Opal? The famous gem was discovered in 2003 by celebrity opal miner John Dunstan, star of the Outback Opal Hunters TV series.
For a stone enveloped in such beauty and magnificence, you’d think it was discovered somewhere reflective of its vivid and sparkly nature, but that’s not the case at all.
So, where was the Virgin rainbow opal found?
Dunstan discovered the gem while working the opal fields of Coober Pedy, Australia. This locale could be likened to a desolate desert that has been laid waste by countless years of earth-scorching heat.
However, it’s important to note that Coober Pedy was initially home to marine dinosaurs, including the present-day cuttlefish’s ancestor. The charming Virgin Rainbow Opal was formed and discovered inside the skeleton of the ancient cuttlefish-like creature known as a Belemnite.
That’s right — Virgin Rainbow Opal is actually an opalized fossil! The stone is a rare and fascinating opalized relic from the Mesozoic era, about 252 to 66 million years ago.
Today, the Virgin Rainbow Opal remains in Australia. It’s currently considered the finest opal ever unearthed and resides as the centerpiece of the opal exhibition at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide.
Such a renowned stone doesn’t come cheap, though! So how much is the Virgin rainbow opal, anyway?
Pictured above: The Virgin Rainbow Opal | Image credit: Michael Clements
Most Australian opals range in price between approximately $10 to $6,000 per carat.
At $1 million, the Virgin Rainbow Opal earns the honor of being one of the world’s most valuable Australian opals.
Why is the Virgin Rainbow Opal so expensive? The Virgin Rainbow Opal is one of the most coveted and valuable precious opals in the world because it’s unique in a few different ways.
For starters, the Virgin Rainbow Opal formed over millions of years within the skeleton of an extinct ancient cuttlefish ancestor — a unique and rare occurrence.
Second, Virgin Rainbow’s glowing color spectrum is extraordinary and unmatched by any other opal. But its true magic is revealed in low light, where it begins to glow and radiate its rainbow hues from within.
Lastly, only one Virgin Rainbow Opal exists, making it a truly one-of-a-kind treasure.
Bearing that in mind, it's no wonder this opal commands such a high price!
…but it’s not the most valuable, if you can believe it.
The Virgin Rainbow Opal is a truly unique and rare treasure, but it isn’t the only special opal to make waves with its extraordinary qualities. Other opals have gained fame for their exceptional characteristics, some even breaking records along the way.
So, what color is the most expensive opal that exists?
The most valuable opal color is black, in contrast to the Olympic Australis, a breathtaking white opal prized for its massive size, along with its rare and unique color pattern. This world-famous opal weighs over 17,000 carats and features a light body color.
How much is the biggest opal worth? The Olympic Australis sold for nearly $2.5 million (AUD) in 1997, equating to about $3.2 million (USD) today.
Image credit: NOBLE/PR IMAGE
The Pacific Opal is another of the world’s largest black opals, weighing a whopping 443.56 carats. In fact, it was listed as the world’s largest black opal in the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records.
Discovered in 1989, the gem is named after the Pacific Ocean in allusion to its vivid blue color and iridescence. The Pacific Opal is highly prized for its unique beauty and rarity, valued at $1 million.
According to the 1991 Guinness Book of World Records, the Halley’s Comet Opal is the largest uncut black opal in the world. The stone measures 4 x 2 ⅝ x 2 ½ inches and weighs 1982.5 carats.
The stone’s moniker pays homage to the comet of the same name, which happened to zoom through the sky over Australia on the night of its discovery: November 3, 1986.
As of 2006, Halley’s Comet Opal is valued at $1.2 million.
Image credit: Mckenna Praetorius
Another giant black opal, the Sea of Opal, weighs over 11,340 carats. This striking opal’s name is an ode to Australia’s oceans. The stone features a central blue patch resembling a swimming fish and a green flash reminiscent of seaweed.
The solid precious opal is natural and hasn’t been treated or enhanced in any way other than by cutting and polishing. As of 2015, the stone was being auctioned starting at $150,000 to $250,000 (about $314,018 today).
Image credit: David Plane
Unfortunately, little is known about this gemstone’s history, as it was added to the prestigious Rockefeller Collection in 1949. Discovered roughly in 1906, it’s one of the largest intact opal jewels in the world, weighing about 900 carats.
The jewel consists of an unmounted pendant featuring a flat central dome shining with a fiery red or golden hue. It’s encircled by a rich blue-green band. When Rockefeller acquired this opal, he paid a staggering £75,000, the equivalent of $3.6 million in today's currency.
The Virgin Rainbow Opal is not only breathtakingly beautiful, but its journey to becoming an opal is a testament to the transformative power of nature. This enduring gem is a relic of the past and a reminder of the enduring beauty surrounding us.
While the Virgin Rainbow Opal itself isn’t for sale, you can still find your own beautiful opal to cherish and admire.
Don't miss the opportunity to own a piece of nature's art – start your search for the perfect opal today!
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