Why are Opals mainly located in Australia?
This valuable gem is mainly located Down Under. For that reason, Australia is the World Heavyweight Champion in opal production. Its nearest challenger is Mexico with minor percentage of production. In fact, almost 95% of opals come from Australia which means that the share of all other countries, such as Mexico, Brazil, Czech Republic and some parts of United States of America, in the world’s opal market supply in less than 5%. The most famous opal locations in Australia are Lightning Ridge, Coober Pedy, Andamooka, White Cliffs, and Cunnamulla districts in Queensland. Opals in rough state are mostly exported to United States, Germany, Hong Kong, and Japan. This export of uncut gemstones provides Australia between one and two hundred million Australian dollars.
Places in Australia where you can find this rainbow-colored stone are in the desolated outback of the continent. Every year more and more fortune seekers and enthusiastic tourists visit opal mines trying their luck in finding precious gemstones. These wild moonscape places are known for really bad climate conditions, yet it seems like nothing can discourage people from their search for opals for more than one and a half century. The main opal fields, including the most famous ones, are located in in the states of New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. Perfect climate conditions in Australia are responsible for these remarkable stones. Formation of opal goes back millions of years ago when Australia became new continent covered by a vast inland sea with a sedimentary basin. When the sea subsided, soluble silica from the basin filled in the little cracks, cervices and voids becoming harder and harder. After a period of approximately 20 million years the silica stone generated a precious opal.
Australian scientists describe opal as "an amorphous mineraloid comprised of hydrated silicon dioxide". To put these scientific facts to simple words, opal is a mixture of silica and water or some sort of silica gel. An average Australian opal contains between 5 and 6 percent of water and it is full of silica spheres which give the opal its marvelous rainbow colors. The statistics shows that opals found in Australia are much harder than the opals coming from other parts of the world. Australia’s opals are predominantly fossil and mineral in origin while opals found outside the Land Down Under have mostly volcanic base.
“Andamooka Desert Flame”, weighing 6,843 kilograms, is the name of the biggest and heaviest opal in the world. This chubby is brought to the daylight from the mines in Andamooka. There are two types of opals that can be found in Australia: precious and common. The first type is rare and very expensive. The main characteristic of the precious opal is the color-play phenomenon that distinguishes this gemstone from all the others making it even more expensive than the diamond itself. Common opal, on the other hand, can be found all over the world, but it has no value.
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