The Opal Story
Types of Opal and Value

Opal is one of the five precious gems of the world, the others being sapphire, emerald, diamond and ruby. Like DNA, opals are unique and no two are exactly the same.

There are many types of opal and they are all precious gems and very beautiful, namely crystal opal, white opal, black opal, boulder opal, black matrix opal, semi-black opal and black crystal opal. In simple terms these fall into two easier explained groups namely "dark" opal and "light" opal.

Black opal tends to be the most rare although other factors such as brilliance, colour and pattern come into play in valuing opal. For example, a top quality, brilliant crystal opal with a range of colours and with good pattern will be of a higher quality and value than a black opal of lower brilliance and less colour. So take care with internet sites which generalise about opal in suggesting that a black opal will always be better and higher quality than other type of opal. It is not simply the type of opal which determines the value but the quality, brilliance and colour of each piece.

Brilliance or Brightness

This relates to the brightness or brilliance of colour coming from the opal. Some opals will flash brightly and others will be more subtle and subdued. The brighter the gem the more valuable it will be.

The rarity of colours within an opal follows the order of the light spectrum (ROYGBIV) with red being the rarest and most valuable colour with orange , yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet following in value. However, remember the brilliance factor, such that a brilliant green may be more valuable than a less brilliant red.

Some opals have a predominant colour and others have a range of colours. All are precious, valuable and beautiful and there are opals to suit all tastes.

Pattern

Good patterns in the opal, where the colour flashes around when the opal is moved also have an important influence on the beauty and value of opal. Various patterns include harlequin, broad, straw, ribbon, rolling flash, pinfire etc.


Shape and Cut

The shape, cut and orientation of the stone are very important to get the best gem from a piece of rough opal. We have had many years experience in cutting a broad range of different types of opal and we take great care to optimise the colour, pattern and brilliance in each piece. We cut standard (    "calibrated ") size opals which will fit into standard size jewellery in all countries. We also cut "free form" shapes which are close to the natural shape of the stones as they came out of the ground. You can therefore buy a cut (unset ) opal and have it set by your own jeweller if you don't see a piece of jewellery in our range which takes your fancy.

Size

Opals, like diamonds and the other precious gems, are measured by carat weight. Quality opal can command a price per carat similar to and quite often more than diamonds.

As we are selling at the wholesale price to opal shops in Australia, as well as in our factory outlet in the Barossa Valley and on this site, we pride ourselves in maintaining the lowest prices per carat for precious opal in Australia and arguably the world.

Buy What Appeals To You

Opals, as with other precious gems are personal items and beauty is generally in the eye of the beholder. If you see an opal or piece of jewellery which appeals to you and the price is affordable then don't get too carried away with the technical valuation aspects or even your friends' opinions, as expert valuers often disagree about relative values of opals. Your friends may also have different tastes and preferences-Buy what you like as you are the one who will be wearing it..

Please feel secure though that whatever you may buy from us, you are buying at the wholesale (as opposed to retail) price. This price will be significantly less (in many cases one half to one third) than the price you will pay from a retail shop in a CBD which is generally paying thousands of dollars per week in lease rent, staffing and other overhead costs. We have also streamlined our range over 30 years of wholesaling to opal shops around Australia, to bring you the most sought after and popular styles of jewellery. Jewellery items in our range which are not sought after, are quickly deleted from our range.

General Care of Opals

The hardness of opal is around 6.5 on the Mohs' Scale which is relatively hard but not as hard as a diamond. You can wear an opal for everyday wear but respect it and do not wear it when doing the gardening for example, as even a diamond can chip on the edge of the crown. (i.e. weak point on a diamond) if subjected to abuse or impact in the garden.

Opals have a water content in their chemical structure and they can therefore be exposed to water. In the case of opal doublets and triplets (i.e. bonded stones), water exposure was avoided in the past when the bonding resins were not water proof , but this is now much less of a problem with the use of high grade water proof resigns in the recent past.
Over many years of wear, an opal may get a few scratches on its surface as can most of the other precious gems. In some cases where opals have been worn continually for 30 years or so, the many scratches may take the natural polish from the stone , leaving a dull or "mat" appearance . Most jewellers and certainly all good opal dealers can re-sand and re-polish the opal and restore it to its original polished finish. If your opal needs re-sanding and polishing we have special techniques to do this for you without removing it from its setting, and at very little cost. (details via email )

Cleaning opal jewellery is simple. Just rub over with a damp cloth and then dry. It will give you a lifetime of elegance, comments from your friends about the changing beauty of this gem in different lights, and you will never cease to be fascinated by the different colours , shades and patterns.

In our opinion opal is the most vibrant, varied and beautiful of all the precious gems and is very simply maintained as a beautiful and unique piece in your jewellery collection.

Opal The Lucky Stone

Opal has a long history and opal artifacts several thousand years old have been discovered in East Africa

The Romans believed opal to be lucky and they established it as a gemstone, obtaining their supplies from traders in the Middle East. The Roman name opalus is based on an ancient Indian word meaning precious stone. The Romans valued opal above all other gems, believing it to combine the beauty of all precious gems. It is well documented in Roman history that Caesars gave their wives opal for good luck and the opal in Roman times was believed to have come from the Hungarian opal mines which operated right up until 1932.

When high quality Australian opal appeared on the market in the 1890's it became a serious threat to the diamond industry and it is understood that diamond cartels actively spread the false rumour that opal was unlucky.( trying to reverse documented history of the 'lucky' stone) Some of this mud stuck and became an 'old wives' tale which is sometimes still repeated today.

There are many reports of opal bringing people luck, including the many opal miners who have made their fortunes and have lived long and prosperous lives. A well known piece of history comes from the Lightning Ridge Historical Society. Mick McCormack, a young opal miner at Lightning Ridge, rode off on his bike when war was declared and went to enlist, simply saying to his friends "I'll be back". A lifetime went by and a very old man was in the Lightening Ridge Hotel showing a piece of opal that he had mined and carried with him through the Great War. At the time he was showing it a buyer offered him 1500 pounds Australian for the stone . The old man said "1500 quid, not on your life mate, I wouldn't accept fifteen thousand quid. I carried this opal through the war with me and I remember one time when I thought it was my last day on earth. Men were killed all around me . Night time, it was, and there was the flashes of the guns and the shells bursting all around us. My hair was standing up and I was sweating. I was really frightened. I had the opal in my tunic pocket. I took it out and looked at it and something …sort of …calmed me down. I looked at the opal in my hand and I thought , some day, I've got to go back to the Ridge. And I'll get back! And I'll take this stone back to where it came from ' And he said 'No mate , money can't buy this stone.' A couple of old miners finally realised who this old man was. They had grown up with him as kids and it was their old mate Mick who had been true to his word and had finally brought his stone home.

Brief History Of Opal In Australia

The first discovery of opal in Australia was made in the Barossa Valley on Tarrawilla Station near Angaston , South Australia by the German Geologist Johannes Menge in 1849. After this there are reports of opal being found in 1875 in the Abercrombie Mountains, New South Wales. Opal was discovered at White Cliffs (NSW) in 1890, Opalton (QLD) in 1896, and at Lightning Ridge (NSW) in 1905.

Opal was discovered at Coober Pedy (Sth Aust) in 1915, where mining became established after the first world war, at Andamooka (South Aust) in 1930 and Mintabie (South Aust ) in 1976.

Source: Opal in South Australia , South Australian Department of Mines and Energy Resources August 1997. Custom Press

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Australian Opal Company, 39 Mount Barker Road, Hahndorf, South Australia 5245 
ph 0883881900    ABN 37010199872
Email Contact: sales@australianopalcompany.com.au
Australian Opal Company (c) 2003