Why are Australian Opals so Expensive?

Why are Australian Opals so Expensive?
A spectacular 4.65ct Australian Free Form Boulder Opal is featured in the "Monet" 4.65ct Boulder Opal Ring.

While not all opals carry the same price tag, Australian opals are incredibly expensive, especially in comparison to opals sourced in other regions of the world. Australia is responsible for 90% of the world’s opal supply and holds quite a prestigious reputation. Several characteristics influence an opal’s cost, from shape, colour, size, and even the place the opal was mined from! Keep reading to find out what makes these colourful stones from this side of the world particularly valuable.

Why is Australian opal more expensive?

There are several reasons Australian opal is regarded as more expensive than opals found in other parts of the world. Firstly, remote Australia (where the majority of Opal mines are located) is one of the harshest and most extreme climates across the globe. As opals require a fair amount of moisture to resist drying out, removing opals from the ground in this environment is no easy task. Australian opal miners have to be highly trained and talented to work successfully in these conditions. The amount of work and dedication in obtaining an Australian opal is one of the reasons why the price may be increased.

Secondly, Australian opals have a spectacular colour spectrum, which gives the gemstones an intense and mystical appearance known as opalescence. Due to the unique combinations of colour in the stone's appearance, a fine, exceptional opal can be regarded as more valuable than a diamond.

How valuable is Australian opal?

As Australian opal mines provide for around 90% of the world’s supply, it has been difficult to keep up with the increasing global demand. Due to these constraints, the prestige of owning Australian Opals has increased its value. 

As there are numerous opal fields across Australia, that all produce their own unique opals, there is no singular form of opal as a benchmark. The variety of types of opal means the cost can vary from about $10 per carat to approximately $6,000 per carat.

At $1 million, the ‘Virgin Rainbow Opal’ is the world’s most valuable Australian opal. It was discovered in 2003 by miner John Dunstan in Coober Pedy of Southern Australia. The reasons for the hefty price tag are pretty interesting - it was formed and found within an ancient cuttlefish skeleton! It also glows in the dark, with a phenomenal colour spectrum.

Is Australian opal rare?

While silica is one of the most common minerals on the planet (the mineral that opals are predominantly made up of), precious opal is very rare – far more rare than diamonds. Precious opal is the gorgeous, coloured gemstone we usually think of when we imagine opals, but in reality, at least 95% of the opal found by miners is common opal without gem colour. 

The rarity of the opal is determined by:

  • Brightness - brightest is best
  • Colour - purple is the most common colour, then followed by blues and greens. Orange and red are much rarer, hence they are the most expensive.
  • Pattern - the way colours are distributed can follow certain patterns, some of which are valued higher than others.
  • Consistency - An opal that looks bold and bright from all directions is regarded as a more valuable opal than one that only looks fantastic in certain lights. 
  • Body tone - the body tone is the darkness of the opal if you ignore its colour. The darker the body tone, the brighter the colours appear! This is why Black Opal is regarded so highly.
  • Opal Field - some opal fields have higher yields than others.

Why Australian black opal is one of the most expensive gemstones in the world?

Australia’s rarest form of opal, the Black Opal are mostly found and mined in the small outback NSW town of Lightning Ridge. 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 how the colours pop against a dark body tone in the Jason Ree  "Black Mirror" 3.69ct Black Opal Diamond Ring below.


The “Black Mirror”  features a 3.69ct Black Opal, sourced from Lightning Ridge.

What is the rarest opal colour?

While Black Opals tend to be the rarest variety of opal due to the deep body tone, reds and oranges as the dominant colours are rarer than blues and violets for the featured colours.  In particular with black opal or dark-toned boulder opal the reds and oranges have an even better contrast, and are seen as more valuable. 

The reason we use ‘dominant colour’  is because it is quite common to see other colours paired within the Opal too, especially when the reds and oranges are present. 


Australian Opals are a spectacular product of ancient processes, resulting in a unique and rare explosion of colour from the natural world. They are the perfect symbol of Australian spirit, overcoming trials and tribulations to emerge spectacularly vibrant and unique.

At Jason Ree, we have decades of experience and expertise working with Opals and other precious gemstones. Browse our signature collections here or get started in designing the perfect custom piece by booking a conversation with Jason Ree today.