Why is Australian Opal So Expensive?

Why is Australian Opal So ExpensiveWherever opals are sourced from, it’s no secret that these gemstones are going to have a high price point. While Australian opals are notoriously expensive, opals across the map are known for being pricey. What makes opals so expensive? More directly, why are Australian opals so expensive? The main reason is that the price closely correlates with the quality we know and love most about opals: they are rare.

Still, there must be more to the plot of expensive opals, right? Let’s dig deeper to find out.

The Uniqueness of Opals

Opals are iridescent gemstones that have a sparkle of a diamond and iridescence of a pearl. And while they share similar traits to other famous gemstones, you’d be hard-pressed to find one as unique as an opal. Part of what makes these gemstones opalescent is that they are made from silica.

Other jewels in this 3-member family are agate and quartz, but these two types of gems are actually crystalline. Even though opals are in the same crystal grouping as quartz and agate, opals are different in the way that they are not crystalline. What does this mean?

Qualities that Affect the Value of Opals

Of all the opals in the world, you’d find it difficult to find two alike. In spite of this novelty, there are universal traits that all opals share. For example, Australian opals have qualities that are highly appreciated and admired. Could it be that these qualities are what make Australian opal so expensive? You hit the nail on the head, there. The task of finding Australia opals alone has a huge impact on its price point. Simply put: it’s a grueling journey.

Australian opals are located in some of the most dangerous and isolated parts of the continent, making the trek to mine them a tricky one. Miners put themselves in high-risk situations in their attempt to source Australian opals.

Why would someone risk their life and livelihood to mine for opals?

The reward is worth the risk. Australian boulders are the most colorful in the world. Some opals are so strikingly beautiful that they are difficult to identify.

These two qualities alone jack the prices of Australian opals to high heights. The good thing is that with the investment, these gems are an invaluable treasure. Are there any other factors that influence the price of Australian opals? You bet! An opal alone is not enough to warrant such steep costs. The most desired opals are valued based on factors including:

  • The brilliance of the gemstone

  • Colors visible to the naked eye

  • Play of color

  • The direction of the colors and pattern

  • Inclusions that influenced the formation process

  • Geographic region in which the opal was sourced

And that’s not all. There are many factors to consider when valuing opal, learn more in our insightful guide.

Why is Australian Opal So Expensive

Are All Opals Expensive?

Not all opals are valued at the same price point. Australian opals are incredibly expensive, especially in comparison to opals sourced in other regions of the world. The reason is that Australian opals have a superior quality that is hard to come by in other regions around the globe. Are opals available in any other areas around the world? You bet. While Australia sources 90% of the world’s supply of opals, you’ll also find them available from Ethiopia, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and even in the U.S.

How is an Opal Valued?

An opal’s value is determined by observing its characteristics. See, all opals are similar in many ways, but when you look closely at two different opals, you’ll notice that they vary in many ways as well. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Here’s an example to bring this concept to life:

Imagine you are holding an opal in each of your hands. The opal in your right hand is medium-sized, while the opal in your left hand is larger and rounder than the one in your right. As with all gemstones, larger opals are more valuable simply because there is literally more material to work with. This concept is not unique to opals either. Consider a candy bar: a single piece of fun-sized candy is going to be far less expensive than a king-sized candy bar. In theory, the same principle applies to opals.

Based on size alone, you would assume that the large opal in your left hand is worth more, right? Not always. Let’s say the larger opal is less iridescent and appears much foggier than the small opal in your right hand. Though this opal is smaller in size, it reflects light and has better play of color than the bigger opal. Which do you think someone would pay more for--the opal that is bigger but less colorful, or the opal that is smaller in size but far more captivating to look at?

If you guessed the smaller yet more colorful opal, then you are absolutely correct! As you can gather from this example: the size of an opal matters, but it’s not the sole indicator of value. Australian opals are the perfect example of top-tier opals. 

Australian opals are so expensive because they exhibit an exceptional combination of traits that make an opal valuable.
Why is Australian Opal So Expensive

Where to Find Opals in Australia

Australian opals are truly a gem, and we mean that more than literally. They are treasured for their novelty, their unique color, and their rareness. And while opals exist in abundance in Australia, the best spots to mine for them are in:

  • Andamooka, South Australia

  • Coober Pedy, South Australia

  • Lightning Ridge, New South Wales  

  • White Cliffs, New South Wales  

  • Yowah, Queensland

However, if you are a consumer in search of the highest-quality Australian opals, you’ve come to the right place! The best thing to do when buying opals is to decide which kind you value most.

If you have your heart set on an elite class of colorful, brilliant, and exceptional opals, Australian are the way to go!


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