Life in Search of Opal
We’ve found opal mining to be an adventurous lifestyle. Most people start mining with very little knowledge, experience or money to fund their operations. That was certainly the case for us. There were some fond memories of a trip to the outback opal fields with Dad as a teenager, and a keen desire to seek the elusive opal – “gem quality” of course. There were dreams and desire and a willingness to make it happen.
We were prepared to work hard even without reward, to go without when the going got tough, and to ignore the fact that most people think you’re crazy to step away from the norm. Yet, within the mining community, it seemed like rich or poor, there was little difference between people, and certainly people respected others for what they were doing and going through.
There is a satisfaction in knowing that there is more to life than a weekly pay cheque, although that certainly would make life easier and more certain. There is always the hope that tomorrow – maybe even the next shovel of dirt – could be the answer to every dream ever imagined. And usually, that is enough to keep you persevering, hoping and knowing that there is still a future.
Then there is the reward – a stone to be appreciated for its very uniqueness. Sometimes it’s not so special in the scheme of things, but long awaited it holds beauty and promise anyway. Each stone can be incredibly fascinating and intriguing – a Gem of Passion.
While some opals can be valuable beyond belief, they have been traded for blood, sweat and tears. Yet on the other hand,nothing can be exchanged for the freedom of lifestyle that opal mining affords those who embrace it.
We look forward to sharing a little of the passion, excitement and adventure of opal mining, when you visit us at Opal Mine Adventure.
Some types of Opal
Black Opal is usually formed naturally on dark, black potch. Almost all the world’s Black Opal comes from Lightning Ridge.The potch has the ability to bring out the strong vibrant colours of the opal gem, thus giving the opal its brilliance.
When looking at the front of a stone, the darkness of the body tone determines whether or not the opal is classed as black opal. A black opal will have a darker body tone which makes the colours in the gemstone more vibrant.
Boulder opal is opal formed naturally on ironstone.The natural ironstone backs are very strong, making boulder opals very durable. There are naturally a variety of surface coverings types, eg full face, patches of opal on ironstone or seams of opal showing through the ironstone. Boulder opal can have an undulated surface, due to being formed in irregular cracks, in the host rock. Sometimes this undulation occurs where the opal layer is not straight, and to expose the opal the cutter must carve away some of the ironstone surface.
Matrix Opal occurs when the opal is formed in the cracks and seams of ironstone, or simply mixed with the host stone. Often, beautiful pictures are formed, due to the way the sparkling opal is surrounded by ironstone.
The colours can be very vibrant and Matrix opal is versatile in that the opal can usually be seen on both sides of the stone.