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EM's nice Opal find.

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Thus far, im my roughly first 6 months in central Australia, I have learnt quite a lot more about opal than many people even realize exist. Much like those who wear them; Opals are complicated gemstones that have many different characters, sizes, ways of expressing themselves and often, health issues.

Opal is sold in three main types.
"Stones" - meaning a solid piece.
"Doublet" - A slice of Opal with wooden or plastic backing.
"Triplet" - A hair thin slice, with a backing and glass dome covering.

Opal has many grades, listed from shittest, to the most highly desired:

Electric Blue/Purple 'honey potch' - This opal, while often quite clear and appealing with a soft transparent honey colour base, fetches the least value, some miners hardly considering it opal at all. It nevertheless can be cut, even faceted, into beautiful gemstones.

Now we already must make our first distinguishing to continue explaning the types and values of Opals, such is its complexity.

Opal has two layers of colours. The crystal base. And the beautiful impurities and angles inside which bring the dazzling array of rainbows to our senses.

Opal Bases: Quite self explanatory. They are listed from shittest, to most desired.

Honey Potch.
Crystal (completely transparent)

Opal Brilliance: This is slightly more complicated. Listed as above.

Pinfire - This is the word used to describe an opals colour, when that colour appears as a series of small dotted strikes throughout its crystal (potch) matrix. While looking quite stunning when in prime health, this tyoe of small dotted cokour sequence has found less favour amount buyers, and is likely to be more common. This Opal type, while in the white potch base, still fetches great prices in India and Islamic markets.

Flashy - Flashy opals have a broader spread of each individual colours and can be in many shapes and sizes, however, the term flashy is used to describe colour that appears brilliant from one angle, yet fades, or dissappears entirely from another. This type of Opal is always very unique to itself, and one must compare it with others of similar style, from a variety of sources, to truly have an idea of the opals value. (Or ask a complete professional who has been involved in opal for many years and who has no invested interest in the information.)

Solid (Not to be confused with a solid stone) - This describes colour that remains brilliant from any angle of view. Solid red pieces are of high value.

Harlequin - This is a hatch-work stiching type effect that different colours can have, seemingly interwoven, yet still holds solid features from every angle. Harlequin black opals have sold for astronomical prices, a stones of 20 or so carats of perfect colour can fetch between a quarter of a million, and a million dollars (for a small piece im talking) and opals have been known to sell for multi millions, in the single piece.

I believe its a good idea to now explain that I am specking only of Australian crystal opals. Not Mexican fire opals. Not Andamooka matrix opal (Still australian however the base is a ston and not opalite, usual of much less value) And not Boulder opals (Large unusual pieces of opal embedded between rocks and often used for carving).

So consider this... You have just found a big chunk of Opal... Just sitting there, in the dark, waiting for the searching light of your 365nm UV torch. (It does happen, I've seen it.)

Its got a strong band (another term used to describe an opal, when it has both colour, and parts with no brilliance at all which is just crystal base.) (We often call opal like that, "Potch and Colour".)anyway it has a strong band of colour through a blue crystal matrix. Its hard too see because all you have is a normal torch light to try and see the colour in the dark. Its big, its colourful, and your getting excited that you've just won a trip to Greece.

You wake up in the morning, take it down to the coffee shop to have it reviewed by the experts. At first, their eyes light up at the size and apparent brilliance of this mid-night strole reward. Quickly though there faces start to screw up, as they put the stone up to the morning sunlight and point out a few cracks. Your heart starts to sink, as they continue to notice the small patches in the stone that dont have the strong brilliance. They notice that the edges seem a bit 'cracky' or 'sugery', not meaning that it has cracks nessesarly, but that the health of the potch is that which is liable to cracking. All of a sudden, that trip to Greece is starting to sound more like a weekend in Bali.

That was a true account of what happened to my friend, which i used to express the certain issues that can arise with a gem, and the rises and falls that can be thrown upon an opal miners reslovd.

So now that we're on the same page, let's tell my story from last night.

I was on an intensive opal mission. I had set up camp in the morning, and was intending on staying out in the opals fields all night in hipe of finding something of decent value.

I tried a new spot an older mentor had mentioned to me months before.

The first 'drive' (opal word for cave) i entered was very small and didnt have any good signs. I took a shit in it, as a reminder to myself no to bother with that shit hole again.

I entered the larger areas and had a can of tuna (having made room) and then started exploring. I noticed straight away some workings and found small pieces of opal around. i picked up what i could find and went deeper into the drive.

Then I stumbled on a nice sized chip under blacklight, thought id check it out with the regular torch, and there was some beautiful full colour white pin-fire. When an opal is full colour (not banded) we say that it is 'skin-to-skin' colour. Meaning that it is colour from one side to the other. I kept search and found some more!

I romed a bit more and found bits and pieces, then left and returned to where I usually work. On the way I noticed that the rain had formed some mini creeks and thought to myself that at night it might be worth checking them out.

I went and worked my old spot for the rest of the day, had a few lamb chops, worked my ass off for some cracky electric blue, then headed up to my camp sight which was planted next to some rubble piles i intended to check that night.

Night came, I noodled the piles a bit (by hand) and found some really strong electric blue, laid down, thanked God and Mother Earth for the lovely day and the opals. Then I thought, I might have one more go. So I went fo a walk back down to where I had noticed the erosion creeks.

This is getting lengthy so we'll wind it up. And Lo! 20 carats of strong coloured, healthy white pin-fire. lacking the full colour spectrum, only red and green, however the expert opal jeweller here said that its colour was stronger than most pin-fire opals and that its shape was favouring a Love Heart shape.

The value, and the towns varrying opinions, range from about $70/carat and $150/carat. Some weight will be lost in the cutting, so we can assume about a 15ct stone.

A decent win for ElixirMixers Opal mission, and the love heart shape should assist in keeping the value in the higher ranges.

BOTH the times that I have found real opal with any decent value, has been directly after prayers of Gratitude to God and Nature. (Mainly God ) and at no other time

I wouldnt put it down to hard work either because even though this time I dug and explored for almost 13 hours straight; last time i ended up being lazy and singing com-by-ya to the skies while drinking myself silly and then my drunken ass fell over a $1000 stone. Ha!

I love this job.

Peace out.

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  1. Euphrasia's Avatar
    Euphrasia -
    Amazing! What an interesting life.
  2. Euphrasia's Avatar
    Euphrasia -
    The thing I had noticed about opal is a kind of strange 'awareness' I feel it has compared to other stones. I'm really not sure how to describe it, but almost like it has more of an actual consciousness. I worked quite a bit with stones, and not many had that quality. Is that something you had noticed as well? Or is it just me?