Australia is the beating heart of the world’s finest opal mining industry. In fact, we are home to 97% of the different types of this renowned gemstone and are the largest provider of opals to the world supply.
With a plethora of different colours and textures available, how do we know what are the best Australian opals on the market? In this guide, we will dive into everything you need to know about this gorgeous mineral, including how to decide which Australian opal is perfect for you.
What are the Best Australian Opals?
Australia boasts the most diverse and high quality range of Opal, with every colour of the visible spectrum, from the deepest and clearest blues and greens to rich pinks, vermilion and fuchsia to bright oranges and soft violets - every colour you can imagine! The value and quality of an opal depends on many factors, including the body tone, brilliance, pattern, number of colours and unique faults. Other important factors like the quality of the cut & polish, and the size of the stone help jewellers and customers to determine the value of a piece.
Though we believe that much of deciding the best Australian Opals comes down to personal preference, the Australian Black Opal is one of the most rare and highly sought after gemstones. Black opals come in every colour of the rainbow, and their dark body tone complements these colours to appear even richer and more intense. Have a look at an example of the dazzling colours in our "Black Mirror" 3.69ct Black Opal Diamond Ring below.
Where are the best opals found in Australia?
Australia’s rarest form of opal, the Black Opal are mostly found and mined in the small outback NSW town of Lightening Ridge. Over 140 million years ago, central Australia held a massive inland sea with mineral rich sands. Eventually, the sea receded forming what is now known as the Great Artesian Basin, dissolving deposits of silica into opal! Across the Great Artesian Basin, there are a number of specific mines that have yielded high-quality opals for decades.
The most recognisable Opal mining sites include White Cliffs, The Queensland Fields, Lightning Ridge, Grawin & Glengarry, Coober Pedy, Andamooka, Mintabie and Lambina.
How do Australian Opals get their colour?
Opals are predominantly made up of water and silica, the main component in glass. This solution solidifies in voids or holes trapped under layers of the earth, forming the precious gemstone. When light hits the opal, it reflects, bounces and diffracts (splits) through the gaps between the microscopic silica spheres. This explosion of light works like a prism, splitting the light waves into a myriad of colours that the naked eye can now pick up.
The different colours are formed by the size of the opal and the gaps in its microscopic structure, as light waves are reflected, bent and split in different directions.
Looking at the spectacular colours on the Virgin Rainbow Opal, it’s not difficult to see why this gemstone is the most expensive opal in the world! Image retrieved from Forbes
What is the most expensive opal in Australia?
At $1 million, the ‘Virgin Rainbow Opal’ is the world’s most expensive opal. It was discovered in 2003 by miner John Dunstan in Coober Pedy of Southern Australia. The reasons for the hefty pricetag are pretty interesting - it was formed and found within an ancient cuttlefish skeleton! It also glows in the dark, with a phenomenal colour spectrum.
But don’t worry! Not all opals share the same expense. The price of an opal will vary depending on its value and quality, which means they can cost anywhere from $10 per carat to approximately $6,000 per carat, so it is likely you can find an opal to suit a variety of budgets!
Which type of opal stone is best for jewellery?
There is no singular type of opal that is best for jewellery, instead we encourage to choose any stone from a variety of colours and types that reflects your individual style and taste. One of our favourite things about opal jewellry is that every stone is unique, so you will not see any mass production. At Jason Ree, we pride ourselves on creating one-of-a-kind pieces, with each opal stone as unique as its wearer.
Opals make a great choice for jewellery as they are so versatile - you can swim with them, shower with them, even do the dishes! An experienced jewellery designer will always make sure your opal piece is set properly, to ensure the stone stays secure and safe from chipping. The shape and polish on the opal is then tailored to your lifestyle and ideal piece.
This the gorgeous "Kuranda" 1.98ct boulder opal pendant featuring a deep green boulder opal sourced from Queensland.
Here at Jason Ree, we deeply value using stones sourced directly from local miners across Australia, ensuring all Opal stones are of top quality and colour in our jewellery. Each stone is hand-selected and only the best make the cut.