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Famous Opals
> The Andamooka Opal (The Queen's Opal)
> Aurora Australis
> The Black Prince
> The Butterfly Stone
> The Flame Queen
> Halley's Comet
> Jupiter Five
> Olympic Australis
> Pride of Australia
> The Virgin Rainbow
Buying Guide for Opals
> Opal Store USA
> Birthstone for October (modern); alternate for June
> Care for Opals
> Cutting Opals
> Opal Store Amazon USA
> Opal shop Australia
> Glossary of Terms
> Investing in Opals - The Value of Opals as an Investment
> Lapidary Information
> Buy Opals Australia

History of Opals and Opal Mining
> Australian Museum National Opal Collection
> Australian Museum researches opalised fossil
> Fossicking in NSW
> Fossils, opalised fossils, sea snails and shells
> Legendary Opal Miners
> Opal Legends
> Opal Mines
> Mining Opals in Wyoming USA
> Opal Links
Types of Opal
> Black Opal
> Boulder Opal
> Crystal Opal
> Fire Opal
> Matrix Opal
> White Opal
> Yowah Nuts
> Opal Doublets
> Opal Triplets
> Opal Jewelry
Australian Opal Mines
> Andamooka Mines, SA
> Coober Pedy, SA
> Lightning Ridge, NSW
> Mintabie or Mintabee, SA
> Opalton, Qld
> Quilpie, Qld
> White Cliffs, NSW
> Winton, Qld
> Yowah, Qld

Gem & Jewelry Pocket Guide:
A Traveler's Guide to Buying Diamonds, Colored Gems, Pearls, Gold and Platinum Jewelry

by Renee Newman

Famous Opals

Stop Press! Stop Press! Stop Press!
 The famous Virgin Rainbow Black Opal is for sale here!

 "The Virgin Rainbow"

The Virgin Rainbow Belemnite Crystal Black Opal
The Virgin Rainbow Belemnite Crystal Black Opal ©
Image © 2004 Piper Films SA
Click image for more details

 September 2003 saw the discovery of The Virgin Rainbow Belemnite Crystal Black Opal ©, a 63.3mm Black Crystal Opal Belemnite Fossil in a 'pipe' shape, featuring gem quality colour, weighing in at 72.65 carats.
  The specimen was discovered at Three Mile Fields in Coober Pedy, in South Australia by Johnny Dunstan. The Virgin Rainbow Black Opal is for sale through this website.

 "Olympic Australis"
 The "Olympic Australis" is reported to be the largest and most valuable gem opal ever found.

 The Olympic Australis Opal was named in honor of the Melbourne Olympic Games and  was valued at AUD$2,500,000 in 2005.  Due to the purity of the extraordinary Olympic Australis Opal it is anticipated that upwards of 7000 carats could be cut from the piece.

"Olympic Australis" Opal
Click image for more details
(information courtesy of Altmann & Cherny)

Read more about the Olympic Australis Opal here

 Owing to it's uniqueness, however, the opal will remain exactly as found. 

 "Aurora Australis"
The "Aurora Australis" was found in 1938 by Charlie Dunstan at Lightning Ridge and is considered the world's most valuable black opals.

Aurora Australis Opal
"Aurora Australis" Opal
Click image for more details
(information courtesy of Altmann & Cherny)

 The oval, cut and polished stone has a harlequin pattern with dominant red, green and blue colors against a black background.
  The Auroa Australis opal weighs 180 cts. and is 3 inches by 1.8 inches. The rarity of the opal comes from its size and strong, vibrant colour play. Dug from an old sea-bed it has the distinctive impression of a star fish on its back. It was valued at AUD$1,000,000 in 2005. Read more about the Aurora Australis Opal here.

 "Pride of Australia / Red Emperor"
‘Pride of Australia', also known as ‘Red Emperor', was found in 1915 by Tom Urwin and Snowy Brown at Phone Line (off Fred Reece Way).

 The Pride of Australia Opal is shaped like the continent. The 2" x 3" opal has black and blue veins interlaced with brilliant red streaks. This double-sided gem cut to a 225 carat stone that just fit into a tobacco tin.

"Pride of Australia" Opal
Click image for more details
(information courtesy of Altmann & Cherny)

 Ernie Sherman bought ‘Pride' plus another three stones from the miners for £2000 around 1920. It was the highest price ever paid for four black opals. The ‘Pride of Australia' was valued in 1931 at £2000 on its own, and was sold in the 1950s from the Percy Marks Collection, Sydney.
  By 1954, it had toured at least five World Fairs as "the greatest opal of Australia, and therefore the greatest opal in the world."
In 1954, Dr. Hubert Eaton bought 'Pride of Australia for the world-famous Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California in the United States for an undisclosed price (between £50,000 and £150,000). ‘Pride' was later stolen together with "The Black Prince" . Read more about The Pride of Australia Opal here.

 "The Black Prince"
 ‘The Black Prince', originally known as ‘Harlequin Prince', was found in 1915 at Phone Line by Urwin and Brown. Perhaps the least significant of the four notable stones from the same claim, this gem weighed 181 carats and displayed a flag pattern one side and the other was red. There was a sand hole in the face. Read more on The Black Prince Opal here.

 This black opal was acquired in England by a wealthy American serviceman, and later donated to the New York Museum of Natural History. Later ‘Prince' became part of the collection at Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery, Los Angeles, and was stolen at the same time as ‘Pride of Australia'.

  ‘Flamingo' was the largest of the four notable stones in the Phone Line patch, weighing over a quarter of a pound at 800 carats! This black opal plus ‘Black Prince', ‘Pride of Australia' and ‘Empress of Australia' were the ones for which Sherman paid Urwin and Brown £2000 in about 1920. This was the most ever paid to that date for four black opals. Ernie's sister Bertha named the stones.

 "Empress of Australia"
 ‘Empress of Australia' was mined in 1915 from the same patch on Phone Line as ‘Pride of Australia' by Urwin and Brown. First known as ‘Kaleidoscope Queen', then ‘Tartan Queen', this stone measured 3 x 2 3/4 x 2 1/4 inches in the rough. She was shaped out and polished to reveal the glowing patches of red to best advantage, probably weighing 500 carats.

 Later, down at the pub, this, the most colourful black opal from the claim, slipped through the fingers of a local admirer, and fell to the floor, breaking into two pieces. Two almost matching stones were cut out of the first piece, each measuring 2 inches long and weighing 20 carats. Ernie Sherman's daughter designed a beautiful pendant for one half. The second piece of ‘Empress', measuring 1 3/4 x 1 1/2 inches and weighing 50-60 carats, was mounted in a gleaming necklet of brilliants. 

 "The Flame Queen"
The ‘Flame Queen' was mined on Bald Hill in 1918, not far from where Charlie Dunstan found ‘Queen of the Earth' in 1906.
Three partners, Jack Phillips, Walter Bradley and "Irish" Joe Hegarty shared the prized opal find.

"The Flame Queen" opal
Click image for more information

 The ½-inch dome was framed with a high emerald green 3/8-inch band (then electric blue from another angle). Thus, the appearance of a ‘Poached Egg', the rather unflattering nickname that was given to ‘Flame'.
 The asking price for this unusual opal has continued to climb over the years with each change of hands.  Ernie Sherman originally paid the three miners £93.
In 1925, an offer of £2000 was made.
 In 1948, she was valued at £5000.
 In 1973, $US 32,000 was paid.
 In 1980, ‘Flame' was for sale again at a million dollars! 
 In 1992, she was back home in Australia.
 In 2003, ‘Flame' was put up for auction at Christie's in New York but was passed in for an undisclosed reserve, estimated at USD$250,000. 

 "Fire Queen"
In November 1906, Charlie Dunstan found "Dunstan's Stone" (Later renamed to "The Fire Queen") , at the Angledool Diggings. She weighed-in at about 6.5 oz. or nearly 900 carats. She was the largest nobby to date – alive with colour – "truly a marvelous gem; too beautiful for words!" 

 After selling the stone for a paltry £100 to an unknown buyer on a trip to Angledool, the story goes that Dunstan got drunk and "lost" two other big stones. In November 1910, Charlie Dunstan was found dead in his hut from a gunshot wound to the head. The verdict was that he had committed suicide. 

 After being originally sold for £100, the stone changed hands several times, each new buyer finding it difficult to sell as there was hardly any market for big black opals in those days. By 1928, however, it was in the Chicago Museum, valued at £40,000 after being renamed "The Fire Queen". In the 1940's, it was then resold to J.D. Rockefeller for £75,000, who donated her to his prestigious family collection. 

 "Halley's Comet"
"Halley's Comet", is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest uncut black opal.

Halley's Comet
Photo courtesy of Opals Guaranteed

 The massive stone was found by a group of opal miners on the Leaning Tree Claim at Lightning Ridge known as The Lunatic Hill Syndicate.
 It weighs 1982.5 carats and measures 100 x 66 x 63 mm, or 4 x 2-5/8 x 2-1/2 in. Halley's Comet was for sale in 2005 for AUD$1.2 million. (shown right).

The gem has a thick gem quality green and green/orange colour bar and is the largest gem nobby to be found at Lightning Ridge to date.

 "Butterfly Stone / The Red Admiral"
The Red Admiral' or 'Butterfly Stone' was discovered during World War I on the 'Phone Line' field.

"Butterfly Stone / The Red Admiral"
Click the opal for more details

 Reported to be 51 carats, the stone is of extraordinary beauty, with a predominant red pattern equally visible from all angles. It wasn't until 1920 that the stone was given the name "Butterfly" because of its resemblance to the British butterfly, the Red Admiral. 
 Len Cram says of this stone, "If you turn this magnificent gem on its side it changes from a butterfly to a full-length picture of a Spanish dancer in traditional broad ruffled dress, perfect in pose and movement, aflame with fiery lights."

 It passed through a number of hands, including Percy Marks and a NSW grazier, before being purchased by the late Mrs Drysdale of Sydney. As of 2004, it was back in the care of Percy Marks & Co. 

 "The Andamooka Opal / The Queen's Opal"
In 1954, an extensive search for the finest opal ever found at the South Australian opal fields was announced by the South Australian Government.

"The Andamooka Opal / The Queen's Opal"
(Photo courtesy of Altmann & Cherny)

 The opal would be presented to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her first visit to Australia. Altmann & Cherny submitted an outstanding piece of rough opal which had been mined at Andamooka.
 The Government selected this opal as the most appropriate and befitting gemstone for this auspicious occasion. 
  The opal was then cut and polished by John Altmann. Once cut it weighed 203 carats and displayed a magnificent array of colours including red, blue and green. It was set with diamonds into an 18 carat palladium necklet.

 Jupiter Five Opal and Persephone Opal

 Opal Miner Steve Zagar "Mr Opals" found himself a reluctant international celebrity in 1990 with his discovery of the Jupiter Five Opal recorded in Guinness Book of Records as the World's Largest and Persephone Opal. Read the story of the Jupiter Five Opal here

 Other Opal Stones 

 Other fine named gem opals from The Ridge include Red Flamingo (1914), Queen of Alexander (1918), Harlequin Flame (1919), Grawin Queen (1926), Sunset Queen (1928), Light of the World (1928), Pandora (1928), Queen of Australia (1931), and Rainbow Stone (1933).

 Shrouded in mystery, the 'Hope Opal' rests in obscurity compared to its famous collection cousin, the Hope Diamond. Also called the 'Aztec Sun God Opal', the 35 carat transparent blue gem with play-of-colour, features a carved human face surrounded by sun rays. Assumed to be Mexican when catalogued in 1839, the opal's origin remains unknown.


Jewelry Information Magazine

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Famous Large Diamonds

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The Crown Jewels

Wedding Anniversary Gemstones


Jewelry - Glossary of Terms