The Opal – An Australian Legend

The Opal – An Australian Legend

Australia has been the leader in opal production since the late 1800’s. In fact, more than 90% of the world’s output of opals is from Australia.

The world has had a constant fascination with opals since time immemorial. Early civilisations believed opals had magical qualities and could aid a wearer with limitless possibilities. The humble Australian opal may not boast these magical powers, but it remains a natural beauty that will never go out of fashion.

A Brief History

Opals were first discovered in Australia in 1849 by German geologist Johannes Menge. The discovery was made near the town of Angaston, South Australia. Fully operational opal mines soon opened, attracting miners from around the country. In 1890, the production of precious opal began at White Cliffs in NSW. This remained the premier opal mine in the country prior to the 1900’s. Rough opals were mined from here and other locations and sent to Germany to be cut and polished.

Today, the South Australian town of Coober Pedy is one of the biggest mining towns for opals. Together, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales boast 90% of all opal exports worldwide.

A Mysterious Creation

The name opal is derived from ancient languages. In Latin, Opalus translates as “to see a colour change.” This natural stone is sought after by clients all over the world. It is formed from a solution of silicon dioxide and water in the earth. This process occurs over several months as the water evaporates.

Early civilisations believed that opals had magical qualities and anyone in possession of an opal was said to have limitless possibilities. Arabian folklore states that opals fell from heaven though flashes of lightning while Ancient Romans took as opals as a token of purity and hope.

Regarded as the first market traders for opals, ancient Romans developed a passion for the gem. According to legend, one Roman emperor was willing to give 1/3 of his kingdom for a single opal.

Opal Jewellery and Accessories

Opal jewellery is a stunning creation that anyone will love. This beautiful gem can be handcrafted into an assortment of jewellery. This includes:

When opals are cut and polished, the colour shines through the finished piece. Prices will vary depending on the weight and colour of the gem, with darker colours usually being more valuable. Black opals are the most valuable opals as they are hard to find. These gems can be valued as much as $15,000 AUD a carat.

More importantly than this, opals inspire imagination and creativity. They have an invaluable energy that allows an owner to bring closeness to those around them.

Australia can lay claim to exporting some of the best products in the world but opals are easily the most beautiful of our exports. If you would like to learn more about our jewellery, feel free to contact Harrington & Co on (07) 3891 3880.