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Opal Information

Opal Information : Where is opal found?  How is opal mined?  Different types of opal.



Following is an intentionally simple explanation of opals.  This is to

give you a fast and easy way to understand opals.



Where is opal found?

Opal is found in Australia, Europe, Africa, USA, Mexico and South America.


However, the best opal is found in Australia and it is generally recognized that the best of that comes from the area 

around the township of Lightning Ridge in the state of NSW. This is known as the black opal.  Having said that you 

shouldn’t think that opals from other regions of the world or Australia would be inferior or less beautiful.


How is opal mined?

Black opal is mostly mined in underground operations, although in some cases it will be open

 cut mining.  A mine is dug by drilling a hole called a shaft about three feet in diameter.  The 

mine can be anywhere form ten feet to 70 feet or more in depth.  From this hole drives are dug

 radiating out to the perimeters of the claim.  A claim is usually fifty feet long by fifty feet wide.

 Often several layers.

opal mining machinery   

Miners use various methods from machinery to hand tools to dig out the opal.  It can

be found in seams of opal or in small nuggets called nobbies.



   opal fossiking2.jpg   

Fossiking is also popular with part-time miners who can search through mullock heaps (spoils from the mine)

 to find their fortune.


 mining machinery.jpg                                                                                                                                     

Australian Opal types:


   rough opal and opal jewelleryBlack Opal from opal fields of New South Wales.


Black Opal ,White Opal, Grey Opal, etc are terms which relate to the base colour of the stone.  Imagine  pouring

 some black ink into a glass of water, just enough so that you could still just see through it.  Now throw in some

 bright pieces of coloured plastic.  You can see the bright coloured plastic pieces and they are in a black solution.

  So the base colour is black! That’s what a black opal is like, the base colour is black and the other colours provide

 the opal colour that we want to see.  Without this black base you would be able to see right through the opal and it

would not display its colour as well.   Now imagine a glass of milk and put some coloured pieces in it.  That is similar

 to White opal. Then we have crystal opal which is similar to the glass of water with no base colouring in it.


 Boulder Opal

Bolder opal

Then we have Boulder Opal which is mainly found near the Queensland. Boulder opal is mostly a thin layer of opal 

sitting on top of a pieces of ironstone.  We also have Yowah matrix which again is a hard stone with impregnations of 

opal through it.


Solid, Doublet and Triplet.

 solid white opal

  Solid opals are one piece.  They are cut from the rough opal into shapes and then polished ready for sale.


  Doublets are two pieces. Sometimes a piece of opal is too thin and needs

 a reinforcing back so the cutter glues a piece of non saleable dark opal to the back of the thin piece of good

 colourful opal.  He then cuts and polishes it.  Doublets are structurally inferior to solids but a good doublet

 will often cost more than a poor solid.


triplet ring Triplets  are three pieces.  A triplet is a doublet which has a dome on top of

 clear material which can be quartz or even glass.  Triplets are inferior to doublets in general and are less expensive.

  They can still make great pieces of jewellery and be very affordable.


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