Lightning Ridge Black Opal


In North Western NSW, outback Australia, and approximately nine hours drive from Sydney, lies a little town called Lightning Ridge. About 70 km South of the Queensland border, and an eight and a half hour drive South West of Brisbane, this tiny village has no traffic lights and is home to a very small population of just over 2,000 people. But pound for pound Lightning Ridge packs a HUGE punch in the World arena. Why? Because Lightning Ridge is home to a rare and spectacular opal, the Lightning Ridge Black Opal. And Lightning Ridge is the only place in the World where black opal is commercially produced.

According to an Australian Government 2016 census, Lightning Ridge is residence to 2,284 people which is 12.22{049d3018651de2a7e433ffb13acdc36a21b9ea4fa995a70edf1ffcc6a2970dff} less than the population census conducted in 2006. People continually drift in and out of Lightning Ridge searching for the rare Lightning Ridge Black Opal and some get lucky but some don’t, but hey, that’s mining, and it is the WILD WEST!!!

Lightning Ridge is a popular destination for both local and overseas tourists wishing to explore the Ridge and experience the magic and beauty of the Black Opal. And to those who are passionate about opal, black opal is available online for all to enjoy and experience.

Opals n Jewels


The Lightning Ridge Black Opal is classified precious opal because of it’s background colour and the type of colour patterns it can produce. Precious opal can be colourless, whitish, light to dark grey, brown, or black and develop in both sedimentary and volcanic rock. Sedimentary rock is a more prevalent environment for opal to form however precious opal has been found in volcanic rocks such as basalt.

Black Opal displays spectral colours which are highlighted by a dark body tone colour which is usually black, dark grey to grey. The dark colour body tone is created by the presence of iron oxide and the darker the background the more emphasis there is on the flash of colours. This characteristic is also reflected in the value of black opal with darker body tones attracting higher prices. The background body tone grading for a Lightning Ridge Black Opal is represented by a Neutral body tone scale that ranges from the darkest body tone of N1, to the lightest N9.

Other opals classified precious include Light Opal, Boulder, and Fire Opal.

Light Opals have a body colour that range from milky white to clear with the clear varieties commonly known as crystal or jelly opal. White Cliffs, in outback NSW, produces beautiful light opals and is also renown for the unique pineapple opal. Coober Pedy, in South Australia, is the main producer of white precious opal and is the largest opal field in the world. It is also the largest opal field on earth.

Boulder Opal is now becoming a very popular gemstone for opal enthusiasts according to the statistics on the behavioural patterns of people searching for opals. Boulder is messy to work with but can produce some amazing colours and is found in the cavities and veins in ironstone (iron stained sandstone) and mudstone.

Fire Opal is transparent to translucent and is characterised with a reddish yellowy body tone that highlights a bright play of red and green colours.

Different colour patterns can emerge from precious opal when rotated and viewed at varying angles and also when seen at different times of the day.



Harlequin patterns are made up of a mixture of different sized square-like patches of colour.

black opal stones
Opals n Jewels solid black opal stone
australian black opal pendants
Opals n Jewels 18 kt gold pendant necklace


A Pinfire is a natural colour pattern consisting of closely spaced specks or pinpoints.


Flashes of colour varying as the stone is rotated and viewed at different angles and light.

Australian black opal pendant
Opals n Jewels 18 kt gold pendant necklace


The famous Lightning Ridge Black Opal was first discovered in the late 1880’s by a boundary rider named Jack Murray. And at the time of discovery, the Lightning Ridge black opal was not acknowledged as a gemstone with any commercial value. It was only in 1903 when black opal was recognized to have any financial worth with the first parcel selling for $30. And $30 was not even a fiftieth of the price obtained five years later. Can you imagine, just five years after that first $30 parcel was sold, its value increased to more than $1500. An incredible increase in excess of 4900{049d3018651de2a7e433ffb13acdc36a21b9ea4fa995a70edf1ffcc6a2970dff}.


Black opal forms as irregular nodules, (“nobbies”), or in seams and thin layers within horizontal and vertical joint planes, in a distinct soft, grey to pale yellowish -brown coloured claystone. Generally known as “opal dirt” this claystone whitens and hardens as it dries. Opal dirt can occur in several levels and the geographical formation of these layers is called the Finch Claystone. Now this is important because opal is often found near the junction of the Finch Claystone and the overlying Wallangulla sandstone. The bottom 30 cm of this layer is generally silicified and extremely hard and appropriately called the “steel band”. Above the Wallangulla sandstone lies a fine grained white to creamy coloured claystone which is usually jointed and has a rectangular or box-like shape structure not necessarily characterised with flat sides. When this layer is exposed to the surface it hardens and silicifieds, a process known as “shin cracker”.

These sediments are of Cretaceous Age and may possibly be associated with Tertiary-Miocene lateritization (see laterite). Red residual soil forms from the natural drainage of silica, through the earth, and enriched with iron oxides and aluminium, particularly in humid climates.

The general sequence of Cretaceous strata for the Lightning Ridge region is:

Coocoran claystone               0.0 — 3.6 m         “Shin cracker”

Wallangulla sandstone          3.6 m — 20 m      Basal 0 —  0.3 m  “Steel band” 

Finch claystone                       1.3 m —  6 m       “Opal dirt”

Patches of Tertiary gravels, including laterite and silcrete occur in some areas.

lightning ridge black opal

Most levels of opal dirt form between 6-18 m below the surface but are not necessarily horizontal or continual. Opal and potch are generally found in only
two or three of these layers however, there was a report of one shaft containing eleven levels. Some shafts have been sunk to depths of up to 30 m.
Geology Reference: Department of Mineral Resources, NSW, “The Geological Survey of New South Wales”