When we talk about types of opal we are referring to the major classifications we use in the opal shop.
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Black Opal refers to the underlying color – the color of the opal when you turn it over. The darker the body the more valuable to stone may be. It is this darkness that lends brightness to the other colors displayed with in the gemstone. Black and dark opal is the rare of all opal and comes from the mines of Lightning Ridge. This black or dark area is non-color bearing opal known as potch.
Crystal opal is translucent when held up to the light. Often the colors and patterns in crystal opal are more magnificent than black opal – they are just a bit more difficult to see. Crystal opal from Lightning Ridge is highly prized and I must admit some of my favorite opal.
This opal is naturally attached to a brown host rock called ironstone. It is unique to the eastern shore of the ancient inland sea and is found predominantly in Queensland. Boulder opal is found in seams which can be cleaved apart on their natural fault lines to reveal faces of opal – for those familiar with a cream biscuit such as an Oreo, imaging opening the cookie with equal amount of icing on either side.
Coober Pedy in South Australia is the home of the white opal. While less valuable than black opal it nevertheless displays as much beauty and play of color as it’s northern cousin. It also produces crystal opal to rival that found in Lightning Ridge.