What is a Harlequin Pattern Opal?

what is harlequin pattern opalIn 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.

Harlequin Opal Definition

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.

Harlequin Pattern Opal

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.

harlequin opal

Some Of the Many Descriptive Terms Utilized To Classify Harlequin Opals

  • Asteria Harlequin – a rare formation showing elongated colour units radiating outwards from a central nucleus.
  • Blue Harlequin – any Harlequin Opal of any subgroup showing a pronounced colour play in the blue spectrum.
  • Checkerboard Harlequin- exceptionally rare opal type showing regularly arranged square-shaped units of colour.
  • Cloverleaf Harlequin – units of colour forming a cloverleaf design by having a central unit surrounded by a ring of outer units.
  • Fish scale Harlequin – patter of colour resembling a fish scale design. *Flag Harlequin – a pattern of colour units resembling a three cornered flagstone paving.
  • Flagstone Harlequin – a pattern resembling the design or an irregular flagstone path.
  • Floral Harlequin – a splashy effect of units which can be likened to the bright floral patterns of dress material, or to bunches of flowers, Three of more units of colour, closely grouped, make up a flower, a very rare pattern.
  • Green Harlequin – any Harlequin opal with pronounced green hue
  • Hexagonal Harlequin – a very rare pattern showing hexagonal colour units arranged together in an interlocking design.
  • Palette Harlequin – a pattern with widely spaced units similar to the layout of colours on an artist’s palette.
  • *Square Harlequin – squarish disjointed colour units are present in the opal pattern.
  • *Peacock pattern Traditional Harlequin pattern with a fanning effect like peacock tail

See below a true harlequin black opal Body tone N1 Brightness 5  

Harlequin pattern black fire opal

Find Your Own Harlequin Opal

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14 people found this article helpful



I'll probably be unpopular for saying this, but I do not find these attractive at all. Interesting, yes. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

18th Feb 2021

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