In the world of Opals, the Harlequin Opal is the one stone that collectors, opal lovers and miners all wish they could find. This is an extremely rare pattern. Some stones may contain just a small part of the opal in this pattern but the pattern needs to encase the whole stone not just one part in order to be called a true Harlequin Opal.
A true Harlequin pattern is a repeating pattern of contracting diamonds or elongated squares
The word Harlequin was a French word used in the 16th century to describe the comedian in an opera play commedia dell’arte and this character wore an outfit with irregular shapes in bight colours .
This pattern has been unique to black opals from Lightning Ridge and red fire is by far the most rare. Black Opal with a body tone of N1 with this pattern can be worth around $5,000 to $30,000 per carat on the opal fields. It show just how rare this pattern is that buyers are willing pay this money on the opal fields.
The below pictures are of the same stone from uncut to final polish. It is amazing to think that such an unassuming stone in the rough will produce one of the rarest gemstones on the planet.
Ethiopian opals might also have this harlequin pattern but from 20,000 Ethiopian opals sold only 3-4 have actually had a true Harlequin Opal pattern. You will see lots of harlequin opal listed on other sites that are not true harlequin opals.
Most Miners, if lucky might only find one true Harlequin Opal in their lifetime. Barry O’Leary’s (Opal author) definition of a Harlequin opals is ”precious opal showing a regular mosaic-like chromatic pattern in rounded, angular, or roughly square patches of about equal size presenting a spangled appearance.” This has opened up a whole lot of interruption on the pattern with many stones listed on the internet as Harlequin but which would not be called that if shown to opal valuers and professional dealers.
See below a true harlequin black opal Body tone N1 Brightness 5
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