The King of Opal: Black Opal Gemstone
The most famous and most sought after opal is black opal. It gets it’s name from the body color which is black, or dark bluish, dark green, or dark brown. A spectacular play of color; or fire against it’s dark background is what makes this gem so beautiful. By and large it is also the most expensive. It is solid crystal opal and not just a thin layer. Some have a layer of matrix (also called potch) underneath the crystal layer. Precious opal is another common term.
Lightning Ridge, Australia
Lightning Ridge, Australia is the best source in the world for black opal. Located about 470 miles northwest of Sydney it’s closer to the coastal cities than other gem mining areas and not as hot in the summer. A few hardy people started mining opal on the Ridge around 1900 and they realized they had a stone of exceptional beauty. The miners need to sink a shaft into the ground maybe 40 feet down and then excavate tunnels looking for veins of opal. Hard work for sure, but it can yield some great rewards if you strike gem grade opal. Some of these stones carry a price that only the very wealthy can afford, but don’t be discouraged because I have found lovely black opal on the internet at prices you can afford. And you will be happy to add them to your collection.
They are out there. Read the description of the opal carefully. You do not want to buy a doublet or a triplet. A doublet is a thin layer of opal cemented on to a layer of potch, or obsidian, or ceramic using black epoxy. If it has a quartz cabochon attached on top it is a triplet. These things must be disclosed. The description should say something like solid opal crystal. A natural layer of potch under the crystal and not glued there is acceptable. The next thing you want to make sure of naturally is the return policy. After that look at their satisfaction ratings. You will do fine, and you will also discover opal that you won’t see at the local jewelers.
A Few Market Facts
The vast majority of the finest opal never comes to the United States. It goes to the Asian market. The Asians believe that opal symbolizes eternal love and happiness and good fortune. None of the “bad luck” superstitions that my grandmother used to talk about. The stones I’m recommending here are not in the museum category costing $100,000 each. I’m recommending that you check out black opals with good color priced from $150 to $750. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised by the quality you can get. Opal has a hardness of 5.5 – 6.5 and I do not recommend it for rings. Light my fire. Light my fire.
Terms for Color Distribution
I recently noticed some opal dealers using terms for color distribution and I will give you a list of those terms along with a description. Harlequin opal- the color display is in the form of quiltlike patches, all in contact with each other, like a mosaic. Flame opal- reddish streaks and bands resembling flames. Flash opal- as you move the gem; flashes of color appear and disappear at various spots. Pinfire opal- the color is in tiny dots close together. Peacock opal- many colors resembling the display of the tail of a peacock.