Opal is a stunning iridescent natural gemstone made from silica mineral. Unlike its crystalline family members, quartz and agate, opal is non-crystalline, meaning its composition is amorphous silica instead of crystal. What makes opal distinct is its ability to flash fiery colors from the depths of the gemstone. When light hits an opal, the chips of silica inside the gemstone bounce it around and refract it in a vivid display of fiery colors. This is just one of the features that makes opals so popular and in turn, pricey. Did you come here for opal prices and value? Then let’s get straight to the question on everyone’s mind: is Australian Opal expensive?
There are countless attributes that make opals a desirable gemstone for both collectors and jewelry lovers. In this article, we’re focusing specifically on the price of Australian Opal to help you know what to pay as a buyer. To properly address price points, we need to step back and take a broad look at Australian Opal.
Opals exist globally, however the largest supply of opals comes from Australia. In fact, Australian Opals make up a whopping 95% of the international supply of opal gemstones.
What makes Australia the prime nursery for opals? It boils down to the geological conditions of certain regions in Australia. These areas contain rock formations that foster the growth and production of sedimentary opal. Opal thrives in specific locations, where millions of years ago geothermal springs flowed. Slowly over time the minerals deep in the earth made their way to the surface and grew in bedrock cavities to form opal.
If you look at a map of Australia and pinpoint these locations, you’ll quickly realize that opal exists abundantly across the country. From the bush to the Outback, Australia is renowned for its natural and geological wonders. The most prominent locations of opal production exist in Australian Opal fields like Lightning Ridge, Queensland, South Australia, Mintabie and Yowah.
To truly assess the value of Australian Opal is no easy task. That’s because each specimen has a multitude of factors that make it an entirely unique stone. For years, there was no hard and fast way to classify opals into a value system. To this day, prices of Australian Opal will invariably shift depending on the factors that affect the quality of the stone.
Instead, we can look at the variables and features of each stone to get better acquainted with its value. There are precisely 10 factors that influence the price of opal: color, play of color, pattern, body tone, brightness, shape, inclusions (flaws), which opal field it came from, natural or treated and origin. While these variables relate to the physical properties of the stone, there is one outlying factor: supply and demand. When opal supply is low, the prices skyrocket. Conversely, high supply drops the price of Australian Opal.
Even with these factors in play, Australian Opal prices vary depending on where you buy it, how the miner evaluated it and what kind of opal it is. Let’s explore some of the ways Australian Opal is valued and priced.
Australian Opals have a reputation for being the most expensive opals in the world. After all, the most rare uncut opal, the “Fire of Australia,” is valued at a cool $675,000. This opal specimen is about the size of a softball and worth over a half million dollars.
Is Australian opal expensive? Yes. Do you have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to own it? No.
Appraising opal gemstones is an artform. Below are some of the most popular Australian Opal options and their relative price points. It’s important to consider that these are not cemented figures, rather estimates based on current market value.
When opal is extracted, miners carry out large rough specimens which are sorted and either sold as opal doublet stones, opalized fossils, rough opal specimens or prepared to be cut into a variety of opal gemstones for jewelry. Once categorized, opals are sold in price per carat, or weight. Because there are so many opal fields in Australia, there really is no singular form of opal. This means that opal costs can vary from about $10 per carat to approximately $6,000 per carat. To hone in on how expensive Australian Opal is, it’s smart to narrow your search by a specific type of opal.
If there’s one thing we know for sure it’s this: not all opals are created equal. Each gemstone is entirely unique from the next. Two highly popular classes of Australian Opal are Black Opal and Fire Opal. How much do they cost?
Australian Black Opal from Lightning Ridge is held in high esteem and serve as the yardstick by which all other opals are measured. Black Opal prices vary from roughly $30 per half carat, up to $1,500 per carat. This is only the .5-1 carat range. High quality Black Opals weighing 5-10 carats can cost up to $50,000.
Fire Opal from Australia ranges from clear to yellow to fiery golden orange. These Australian Opals are valued for their shiny luster and hardness. Compared to Black Opal, Fire Opal is more affordable with price points ranging from $70 per half carat, to $1,000 for 3.5 carats.
The most expensive recorded Australian Opal is the “Olympic Australis,” weighing an astonishing 17,250 carats. Impressive! This massive opal specimen comes from Coober Pedy in South Australia and was valued at $1.7 million USD., making it the most expensive opal in Australian history.
As you can see, there is no concrete formula for valuing Australian opals because each is so unique. To properly answer the question, “is Australian Opal expensive?” requires digging into the specific variables of each and every opal specimen or gemstone. Few gems are as difficult to appraise as opals, which is in large part because few gems are as rare and dynamic as Australian opals.
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