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Types of Australian Opals: An In-Depth Look


Australia is celebrated for its incredible opal deposits, producing more than 90% of the world’s supply. These precious gems, with their mesmerizing play of colours, have fascinated gem enthusiasts for centuries. Australian opals come in various types, each with unique characteristics and beauty. At Opals to You, we delve into the different types of opals found in Australia, including black opals, white opals, boulder opals, and crystal opals.

Black Opals: The King of Opals from Lightning Ridge

Black opals, often considered the most valuable and striking, are primarily found in Lightning Ridge, New South Wales. What sets black opals apart is their dark body tone, which can range from dark grey to jet black. This dark background enhances the vibrant colours displayed within the stone, making the opal’s colour play more dramatic and intense.

Characteristics of Black Opals:
  •  Colour Play: Black opals exhibit a vivid spectrum of colours, including blues, greens, reds, and oranges.
  • Body Tone:  The dark base tone provides a stunning contrast to the bright colour flashes.
  • Value: Black opals are among the most prized and expensive due to their rarity and striking appearance.

White Opals: The White Opal Wonderland of Coober Pedy

White opals, also known as milky opals, are primarily found in Coober Pedy, South Australia. These opals have a light or white body tone, which gives them a softer, more subtle appearance compared to black opals. While they may not be as vivid, the play of colour in white opals can be incredibly beautiful and varied.

Characteristics of White Opals:
  •  Colour Play: Displays a range of colors, though typically softer and more pastel-like.
  • Body Tone: Light or white base tone that gives a milky appearance.
  • Availability: More abundant than black opals, making them more affordable and accessible.

Boulder Opals: Unique treasures from Queensland

Boulder opals are primarily found in Queensland. These opals form within ironstone boulders and are known for their unique and striking patterns. The opal veins and patches are often interspersed with the ironstone matrix, creating a beautiful contrast and natural artwork.

Characteristics of Boulder Opals:
  • Colour Play: Rich and varied colour patterns, often with flashes of intense colour.
  • Body Tone: Dark or light, depending on the ironstone matrix.
  • Formation:  The opal forms in veins or patches within the ironstone, adding to its unique appearance.
  • Durability: The ironstone matrix adds strength, making boulder opals more durable than other types.

Crystal Opals: The Transparent Marvels

Crystal opals can be found in various locations across Australia, including Lightning Ridge and Coober Pedy. These opals are characterized by their transparency or translucency, allowing light to pass through the stone and enhancing the play of colour. Crystal opals can have a body tone ranging from colourless to dark, depending on the presence of impurities.

Characteristics of Crystal Opals:
  • Colour Play: Intense and vibrant due to the transparency of the stone.
  • Body Tone: Can range from clear to dark, influencing the overall appearance.
  • Versatility: Crystal opals can be cut into various shapes and styles, making them popular for jewellery.

Common Opal (Potch): The Unsung Hero

Common opal, also known as potch, lacks the play of colour seen in precious opals. However, it still holds a place in the opal world due to its use in creating doublets and triplets and its role in opal formation. Common opal is found throughout Australia’s opal fields.

  •  Appearance: Opaque with a variety of colours, including white, grey, and brown.
  • Uses: Often used as a backing for doublet and triplet opals to enhance their appearance.
  • Formation: Helps form the base for precious opal deposits.


Australia’s opal fields produce a stunning array of opals, each with distinct characteristics and charm. From the intense and dramatic black opals of Lightning Ridge to the unique and durable boulder opals of Queensland, these gemstones offer something for every opal enthusiast. Whether you’re drawn to the subtle beauty of white opals or the vibrant colours of crystal opals, Australian opals are a testament to nature’s artistry and continue to captivate and inspire gem lovers around the world. Discover the beauty and diversity of these gems at Opals to You.

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