Opals are one of nature's most beautiful gems, coming as they do in a dazzling array of colours and patterns.
Australia produces more than 95% of the world's opal supply from four main opal fields. Lightning Ridge in New South Wales, Quilpie in Western Queensland, and Coober Pedy and Mintabie in South Australia.
The history of opal goes back to the 1 st century AD when Pliny described opals as the “Queen of Gems”. In Roman times this precious gem was included in the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor. They were thought to bring good fortune and the Roman senator Nonius preferred exile to selling one particularly brilliant opal to Mark Anthony who coveted it as a gift for Cleopatra.
Natural Opal is divided into the categories of black, dark, light, boulder and matrix opal. The classification of black, dark and light is determined by the body tone i.e. the degree of darkness in the background.
When choosing your opal or opal jewellery you will need to consider a combination of brilliance, pattern, colour, shape and size.
The brilliance of colour is of paramount importance. The more vibrant the colour, the greater the value of the stone will be. Good patterns of colour, combined with brilliance, have a significant effect on price. Broad patterns, or large flashes, are considered to be more valuable than pinfire and small types of pattern.
Choose a colour that appeals to you. Red on black is the most valuable but there are many combinations including blue, green, orange, yellow, indigo and violet to choose from.
A stone with a domed surface will be more valuable than a similar stone with a flat surface.
As with other gems opals are measured in carats. When all other factors are constant, the larger the stone, the more valuable it will be.
As with all other types of jewellery it is important to buy from a jeweller who you trust and feel confident with. We will give you all the advice you need to help make choosing your opal jewellery an enjoyable experience. Bill Hicks can show you a selection of Australian opals to choose from and will be delighted to discuss designing a piece especially for you.