If you’ve followed the Opal Trail through Australia you’ve likely landed at Lightning Ridge, a vast landscape featuring a winding river, lush native vegetation and tranquil shorelines. You’ll also find underground sculptures, castles, gardens, and myriad of sprawling hills.
What makes this land so special? Aside from the plethora of natural wonder, a jewel lies hidden beneath the earth’s surface. Lightning Ridge happens to be the home of the prized Black Opal.
While tourists could easily spend days exploring the region, a popular stop on the trail through Lightning Ridge is the Grawin Opal Fields.
So, what can you expect to see at the Grawin Opal Fields? What is there to do? And what makes this fertile land perfect for opal mining? Read on as we outline everything you need to know about the Grawin Opal Fields.
Opal is an iridescent stone featuring a gorgeous array of vivid colors and patterns. Opal is an elusive gem that requires great efforts to mine. However, once a miner gets his or her hands on opal, it’s truly a feast for the eyes.
Most opal is mined in Australia, however Lightning Ridge is the exclusive home of Black Opal. Unlike other opals, Black Opal is unique in that it has a rich and dark background or base color. These treasured gems are actually extremely valuable and priced higher than other variations of opal due to their unique color, brilliance, pattern and rarity. Black opal mined from Lightning Ridge is so valuable, pieces have fetched over $20,000!
Visiting Lightning Ridge provides the chance to buy this precious stone and choose from a wide selection of gorgeous Black Opal mined right at the source.
The Grawin Opal Fields offer the chance to step back in time. In fact, opal was first mined at the Grawin Fields back in 1905. Located 40 km to the southwest of Lightning Ridge, Grawin Opal Fields isn’t just one stop, rather a collection of small mines.
The name encompasses several fields in the region including Grawin, Sheepyard, Mulga Rush and Glengarry.
Contrasting the lush landscapes of Lightning Ridge, Grawin is a dry land resemblant of a moonscape. However, it’s not what’s above ground that counts here, rather what lies beneath. So, how did it all begin? How was opal first discovered and what makes Grawin such a hotbed for black opal? Well, in order to answer those questions we need to wind the clocks back over one hundred years. Let’s step back in time to explore the history of the Grawin Opal Fields.
Opal was first discovered here in 1905 by miner Charles Phipp, who was exploring the Morendah Station. However, full mining wasn’t enacted until 1908 when the Grawin was established due to discoveries along the hills of the Grawin region. What followed was the development of a village and full mining operation. However, at the time mining consisted of picks, shovels and a lot of digging by candlelight.
It wasn’t until 1928 that a huge stone named “The Light of the Worlds,” weighing .45 kg, was mined in Richards Hill. It was the discovery of this huge opal that put Grawin on the map, generating an influx of miners on the hunt for their fortune. As time went on and technology developed, mining techniques evolved and with the aid of electricity and jackhammers, mining became a full operation in Grawin.
As the years unfolded, each decade seemed to lead to a new discovery of rich opal in different areas of the Grawin Opal Fields. The 1980s experienced a full-fledged Opal rush accompanied by large scale productions with no signs of stopping. In fact, the opal rush reached its pinnacle with the “Mulga Rush”, which was the largest Opal rush and occured in 2000.
Now, Grawin is an active mine but has segued into more of a tourist attraction to inform visitors about the Grawin opal history and what life is like on an opal field. Sound like fun? Here’s how you can best explore the Grawin Opal Fields.
A great way to explore the Grawin is to take the Grawin Tour, which is a loop you drive and follow car doors which serve as signals to guide you along the route. On this loop you’ll get to see mining operations in action, stop for a bite to eat and a refreshment, visit a local pub and even get in a round of golf. Here’s a look at each of the highlights you’ll see along the Grawin Opal Fields Tour:Miner’s Club - Here, you’ll actually get to rub shoulders with the local miners. You can play games in the game room, and even get in a round of golf.
As you can see, each of these stops on the Grawin Tour provides a unique outback experience where you can chat with the locals, learn about the rich Grawin history, and savor the unique lifestyle of the Grawin Opal Fields.
Before you embark on your tour through Grawin, there are some things to keep in mind. Because this is an active mine, you want to be mindful of the working areas.
Watch your step as there are open shafts and live operations, best to keep little ones close by when exploring the Grawin Opal Fields.
Most miners are extremely friendly and happy to chat with you about their operation, however under no condition is it acceptable to trespass or take anything from the dig as it is considered stealing.
And that wraps up everything you need to know about the Grawin Opal Fields! Ready to buy opal? Browse our collection of unique opal stones and jewelry.
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