Queen of Gemsopals at very very cheap prices

New South Wales

New South Wales

New South Wales mining fields are Lightning Ridge and White Cliffs in the North West of the state.

At Lightning Ridge most opal mining is carried out on licenced mineral claims or under an opal prospecting licence. The maximum area allowed for an opal claim is 2 hectares.

Lightning Ridge

This area is the principal source of the world's best black opal The Ridge is 770 kilometres north-west of Sydney. It experiences long, hot summers and short, cold winters. Maximum daytime temperatures peak at about 50oC). Winter temperatures drop to about 4oC.

Lightning Ridge opal tends to occur as nobbies or in seams and in thin layers within vertical or horizontal joint planes. The host rock is soft-grey to buff coloured claystone; which tends to whiten and harden on drying.

There are a number of opal fields in the surrounding areas of Lightning Ridge, the majority producing black "nobby" opal. Seam opal is also produced in the area, as is crystal opal. "Nobby" opal differs from seam opal, in that the quality can be totally hidden until it is cut or rubbed up.

A "rub" is an opal that is cleaned-up, the potch or waste is removed, allowing the play of colour or quality to be seen. Until the "nobby" is cleaned it is a total gamble as to the quality of the opal. For this reason virtually all of the Ligtning Ridge opal is sold as "rub". The cleaning process reduces the risk for the buyer.

The market in Lightning Ridge has been shaped by the type of opal that is produced in the area. The majority of the opal from Lightning Ridge is black opal which is the most valuable form of opal. There is a higher proportion of top grade or gemstone quality opal in a parcel.

There are a number of markets for black opal, including Japan, Europe and the USA. Japan has traditionally been the largest market, paying the highest price and demanding the highest quality opal. The turn-down in the Japanese economy has seen a decrease in demand, but Japan still remains the largest market.

There are a number of buyers in Lightning Ridge, buying rough, rubbed and cut stones. Most buyers cut and polish the stones and sell as loose stones to Japanese wholesalers/manufacturers. There are buyers who on sell in the form that they buy the opal.

Due to the higher value of the opal, buyers tend to buy NSW individual stones rather than parcels. The higher margins also allow for Australian processors to value-add in Australia.

Lightning Ridge Black Opal