Australia has been the worlds number one source of quality opals for over 100 years. It is estimated that 95-97% of all Opals come from the Australian opal fields.
Today we have huge deposits of opal mined in Ethiopia and even old Hungarian opal mines have re-opened in Slovakia. However Australian opals are highly regarded as the best opals in the world. From Boulder Opal to Coober Pedy Opals to the world famous Black opals, Australia has them all.
This is the home of the famous black Opal and makes up just one of the New South Wales opal fields. The rarest and most sought after Australian opal is black Opal especially a red fire Harlequin pattern which is every opal owners dream. An opal miner might be lucky to find one in his lifetime as they are so rare.
Black opals are graded by body tone chart with N1 the darkest body tone and these opals are getting harder to find. In the past a lot opals came from Cochran opal fields and these were nobbies and some displayed deep fire colours and body tone.
Now a lot of opals are seam opal and not as deep in body colour. These stones are rated as N2, N3 or N4. If the opal is softer in colour and it looks grey than it is not considered a black opal.
Many fine crystal opals and some shell fossil opals are found at Lightning Ridge but production has been down last few years. There are only few open cut mines in Lightning Ridge. Most of the working mines are 1-2 man operations digging underground with hand tools.
The Australian opal fields in Queensland are spread over thousands of miles in central Queensland. Fully faced colored boulder opal is found from Winton to Quilpie to Jundah.
This opal has sandstone back formed naturally ironstone with displays or veins of colour are found in large rocks or pancakes and heavy moving equipment is used from massive bulldozers to excavators.
Boulder opal from Yowah to Koroit is deep ironstone with traces or veins of colour and beautiful patterns which makes these opals popular. They are less expensive than Lightning Ridge opal but each one is so unique.
The South Australian opal fields were one of the first areas for opal mining. From Coober Pedy to Andamooka to White Cliffs, each area has its own distinct crystal opal from the famous Olympic opal fields to the semi black opals from Mintabie.
Coober Pedy is a popular tourist town as visitors enjoy sleeping underground in old mines. it is defiantly worth a visit if you are in the area.
Opals have been found in desert region of West Australia. The Williams opal mine at Coolgardie have some beautiful specimens but most were crazed so only for display purpose. Recently opals have been found and some were offered for sale at the recent Tucson Gem show in Arizona
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