History of Opals

The history of opals is as varied and beautiful as the gemstone itself. From ancient times until today, opals have been cherished for their unique play of color and the mysterious allure they hold. Unlike any other gem, every opal is one-of-a-kind, just as unique as our fingerprints. Some have likened them to volcanoes, galaxies, and even fireworks.

Opal history begins in antiquity. Aboriginal tribes in Australia, where many opals are mined, believe these gemstones are the Creator's footprints on Earth. Their fiery colours have led people to regard them as tokens of luck, embodiments of the rainbow, and even sparks of the divine. Opals have been found around burial sites.

European history, too, is ripe with opal lore and legend. The ancient Romans, for instance, revered opals for their ability to capture the colours of all precious gems. The Roman historian Pliny wrote in the first century AD about the breathtaking beauty of opals, comparing them to the fire of rubies, the glorious purple of amethyst, and the sea-green of emerald.

Before Australia was discovered and then settled by the "English" opal was predominantly mined in Hungary.   I very pretty crystal opal was mined there. Once the quality of abundance of Australian opal hit the English Market in the 1900's the Hungarian opal industry wound up.

There are some very important people in the opal industry's past including people like Des Burton in the 60's, And two significant opal buyers/dealers over a century ago, Tullie Wollaston and HW BOND. 

Germany has always played a big roll in the opal industry. Before world war one, most Australian opals were cut in Germany. And after World war many immigrants moved to Australian and became opal miners, many of them were Serbians

Turning our attention to Australian Opal history, Australia entered the opal market in the 1880s. An Australian down on his luck uncovered an opal deposit on his property, which led to the mining industry we know today.

The Australian Opal mining industry truly took off when a large find in south Australia in the 1890s culminated in the opening of numerous opal mining fields. Since then, Australia has consistently produced over 90% until about 2010 when a large deposit of opal was discovered in Ethiopia. 

The unique Australian landscape, a hotbed for opal formation, has made Australia synonymous with opals. Moreover, the larrikin spirit of the Australian opal miner, often working in remote, challenging environments, embodies not only the rugged Australian outback but also the tenacity and passion of its people. One such character was Harold Hodges. To see how much of a character he was. As soon as you click on this page you will see how much of a character he was.

Opals from Australia are also prized for their quality and variety, featuring everything from breathtaking, fiery Harlequin patterns to soothing blue ocean-like depth in Boulder Opals, and even black opals, the ‘kings’ of the opal family.

In 1915, the black opal was found in Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, which has since become known as the black opal capital of the world. These opals are widely acknowledged as the finest and most compelling of all the opals in the world. What's interesting is when the dealers first to England to try and sell black opal. The price was very low as there was no established market. But it was not long before the supply demand ratio started to swing towards the increase of value v's demand. 

In 1932, Andamooka, another prime location for opal mining, was put on the map when opal miners discovered precious opals in the region. Known in the industry for the very best and most stable crystal opal, When we in the industry say that it is an Andamooka Crystal Opal we are saying it is a quality opal and very stable (resistant to cracking).

Australia’s opal history has also led to cultural and symbolic significance of opal. The opal has become an integral part of Australian identity, even being declared the national gemstone of Australia in 1993.

Not just limited to jewellery, opals have become a part of artistic and cultural expression. From the famous Fire of Australia opal, featuring one of the most spectacular play-of-colour displays, held in the South Australian Museum.

Today, the resilience of the Australian Opal miners in the face of the remote and arduous Australian outback, and the opal industry's contribution to Australian history are sources of national pride.

The Australian Opal has also been interwoven into Australian literature, with Paddy Hannan's prospecting in the 'wild west' and Ion Idriess's Lightning Ridge stories bringing the opal miner's narrative to life.

The history of opals, especially that of Australian Opal, serves to remind us of the strength, tenacity, and beauty of both the gemstone and the people who mine them. Over time, these treasures from the earth have not lost their allure but have grown in both value and esteem.

Indeed, opals are not just gemstones. They are historical artefacts that represent a significant chapter in Australia's history. They tell a story of resilience and belief in beauty that lies beneath the ordinary-looking surface.

Whether you are an avid collector of opals, a history aficionado, or simply an admirer of beautiful things, the uniquely captivating world of opals beckons us all. Whether set in jewellery or admired in their raw form, opals always have a story to tell.

The history of opals is not just rich in colour but also rich in culture and human endeavour. From the ancient beliefs of Aboriginal tribes to the fever of opal prospecting in Australia and the exquisite craftsmanship of opals in contemporary jewellery, opals continue to fascinate and inspire. After all, the history of opals tells us a lot more than the story of a gemstone. It invites us to appreciate the unparalleled beauty of nature, the indomitable human spirit, and the timeless appeal of opals.

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