Opal Earrings

Dazzle yourself and others with beautiful opal earrings. Flashes of color brighten moods and outlooks as one sees reflected various hues of color. There really isn't another stone that has so many different colors in one stone so close together.

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Opal: Australia's Great Love Affair

by Margaret Burgon Klemp

The opal is synonymous with Australia. It is the stuff out which legends are made. The opal mines there, were in many cases discovered by very ordinary people like the 14 year old who walked into his campground with a backpack full of opals in 1915. The sight became Coober Pedy which until recently was the foremost producer of opals in the world. Once opals were discovered in Australia a whole boom started. Most of the large opal fields can be found in Queensland, South Australia, and New South Wales. The main opal mining towns are: Quilpie, Coober Pedy, Lightning Ridge, Andamooka, White Cliffs, Mintabie and Winton. There are a lot of other smaller opal centers in Australia, but the ones named here are the most well-known.

Black Opal

New South Wales produces more opals than any other area. Lightning Ridge in New South Wales is only place in the world where the true black opal is found. There is a black opal that is produced in the state of Nevada in the United States, but it is very different from the opals found at Lightning Ridge. The color of the Nevada stone ranges from browns to blacks and the weathering and aging processes attributed to them are different than those found in Australia. The Australian black opal contains carbon and iron oxide trace elements in it. The black opal of Australia is the most sought after opal in the world. The ancient legends of the natives who live there say that a huge wheel of fire sprayed the earth with beautiful stones, and they became the black opal. Geologists say that the opals were deposited by the ancient streams and rivers 15 million years ago. The area where they finally came to rest is known as the Surat Basin, an area that lies within the Great Australian Basin in Eastern Australia. The opals here were deposited in shallow areas at the edge of the basin. Opals were discovered at Lightning Ridge in the late 19th century. It was a boundary rider named Jack Murray who first mined there. Later another miner began mining in earnest in the area and Lightning Ridge was born. At first the black opals were sold at extremely reasonable prices, but it was not long before they captured premier prices on the gemstone market. There is a whole spectrum of light that plays upon the black opal. If a stone is pure black with no light refraction it is one sign that it is not a true black opal.

Seam Opal

White Cliffs, in the Northwestern part of New South Wales was discovered by a group of kangaroo hunters 1889. The first seam opals were found at White Cliffs. This type of opal is found in the seams or large cracks of rock. Seam opal may also specifically refer to masses of white common opal containing bands of precious white opal.

Boulder Opal

The Boulder Opal comes from Queensland, Australia, and is found in the cracks of ironstone or sandstone boulders. Sometimes the opal appears as a coating on the boulders. In Queensland there is a whole belt of special sedimentary rock known as the Winton formation. In addition there are several smaller opal mining fields all over Queensland. Some of the opal found here is used for decorative purposes not only by jewelers, but by other artisans. For example there is a famous Indian head carving with the war bonnet made out of opal that comes from the Myneside mining site in West Queensland. It is housed at American Museum of Natural History.

White Opal

Coober Pedy is one of the world's leading producers of the white opal which is what the average person might see on the commercial gemstone market. It is also home to most of the world.s precious opals. So owners. of the mine can work both ends of the market. I have a white opal that a friend got for me at Coober Pedy. It does change its color as the amount of light on it increases or decreases. When a lot of light shines on it little specs of red, pink and silver seem to be embedded in the stone. While some of the opals from Coober Pedy are more expensive the white opal found there can usually be purchased for very reasonable prices. The average person can afford to get one. A lot of the residents and workers that live in the area prefer simple underground dugouts to escape the intense summer heat. These dugouts remain warm in the outback winter months.

Opal Mines

While there is a constant search going on for new opal mines in Australia the newest field did not receive serious consideration until 1978. This is the Mintabie field located in South Australia. The reason it remained abandoned so long is because the climate is too severe, and no one wanted to work there. Then large modern machinery started being used to make the mining operations easier. This mine is located on land owned by the natives who have lived there for thousands of years. This is one the reasons that the site is unique.

References

Gemstones: Symbols of Beauty and Power, Eduard Gubelin and Franz-Xaver Erni, Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona

Gems in Myth, Legend and Lore, Bruce G. Knuth, Jewelers Press, Thornton, Colorado

Gems: A Lively Guide for the Casual Collector, Daniel J. Dennis Jr., 1999 Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, New York

The Natural History, Pliny the Elder, English Edition, John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S., H.T. Riley, Esq. B.A. (www.perseus.tufts.edu )

Gems and Crystals: From the American Museum of Natural History (Rocks, Minerals and Gemstones), Anna S. Sofianides and George E. Harlow, Simon and Schuster, New York, New York

Opals Down Under

The Gemmological Association of Australia 2005