Lovers of jewellery often gravitate to diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls, but no gem stones are as visually stunning as the opal. Many believe the opal to be one of the most unique gems that have been unearthed. Discovered as far back as 4000 BC, opal has the ability to catch a person’s eye by displaying a multitude of different colours. Opalhas a distinctive look that sets it apart from other gem stones, with mesmerising flecks of colour contained within eachstone. But while opals are a stunning choice, black opals in particular are highly sought after.
The word ‘opal’ has a few different meanings attached to the name. In ancient SanakritUpala, it means ‘precious stone’. In Greek, the word means ‘a change of colour’. Both names fit well with what the opal represents. But even more fitting is the name given to the black opal, with this precious gem referred to as the ‘queen of the gemstones’ for its uniqueness fromother types of opal. And indeed, it is the rarest jewel in the crown.
Black Opals − A Cut Above the Rest
Opals have many possible background colours, with available types of opals including:
- Natural opals
- Black opals
- Light / white opals
- Boulder opals
While all opals are considered unique and special, black opals are the most valued. The black opal is set on a dark background and displays different colours in a more vibrant way. However, since the background is dark, if you view these stones facing upwards, you may not see as many of the lovely splashes of colours.
Delving into the origins of black opals, you’ll find that they and all types of opals are mined in certain areas of Australia. Black opals are found mostly in the New South Wales region of Australia in the Lightning Ridge Mine Fields.
Why Are Black Opals So Highly Sought After?
Learning about the formation of opals will help you to understand why a black opal is the rarest form of opal. Opals are born out of the rain. As the rain falls through cracks in the earth, a silica-rich solution from marine sand also flows with the rain, and this is the material from which the opal is formed. The difference in the formation of the black opal is that the silica also mixes with fossils that were formally coral and sponge. This is an atypical type of mixture that results inthe trademark black tone background of black opals.
To give an example of how precious black opals are in comparison to other types of opals, you just need to look at the prices they’re sold for. Since the black opal is formed more distinctively and is harder to come across, a carat can be as much as $15,000 AUD for a top-quality stone. The most common opal, the white opal, receives much less, usually fetching $200 AUD per carat. As you can see, this is quite a big difference.