Lightning Ridge Opal — Australia's Beauty
What is the rarest, most valuable Opal and where does it come from?
The answer is Australian Black Opal, not for its blackness but for displaying every color of the spectrum. The gemstone has been described as a tiny live fireworks display exploding in vibrant colors with every turn. It possesses a dazzling array of reflective movement and an intense mix of iridescent luminosity that is unparalleled in any other precious stone.
Over 95% of the World’s Opal comes from Australia and Lightning Ridge is considered the Capital of Black Opal. The mine is an ancient dry river bed, a clay levy surrounded by black soil plains located at the edge of the outback in New South Wales. Besides Black Opal the mines yield fiery colors of Red, Blue, Green, and White Opal like you have never seen. The Aborigines believe Opals appeared when the creator rode a rainbow to Earth and his foot touched the ground which is somewhat contradictory to the fact that Lightning Ridge, Australia was named when passing kangaroo hunters discovered a farmer and his dog along with 600 sheep dead from lightning bolt strikes.
Lightning is not the only danger at the now famous mines which are located 30 feet below ground; many lives have been lost. It is estimated two miners per year are buried alive from collapsing caves. Still the miners risk their lives for Lightning Ridge Opal, some of which is worth more than diamonds. Today, the average price for Black Opal is over $2300 per Carat, but it has gone for as much as $20,000 per Carat for bigger, more exceptional pieces.
The high value of Lightning Ridge Opal has transformed this once desolate area into a thriving town and popular tourist attraction, but in recent years certain problems have surfaced. An increase in crime and the government’s resistance to enforce laws and rehabilitation of abandoned mines has added other elements of danger and caused local farmers to petition for help. The results were new stricter mining regulations and requirements that miners say could collapse the local industry possibly making Black Lightning Ridge Opal the downfall of the town it once created.
Opal has been coveted and fought over since the days of Cleopatra and recently discovered dinosaur bones, found not fossilized, but “Opalized”, indicate that opal has been an object of envy and rivalry for much longer as it is much older than scientists once thought. Only the most exceptional gemstone could generate such long-lived controversy or orchestrate a town’s history from beginning to end. Still, the fact remains that the value of Lightning Ridge Opal will keep the mines open for now, and the extraordinary beauty of this gemstone will keep the demand and the disputes alive forever.