Famous Historic Opals

Famous historic opals 

Boulder opal


There are many famous Opals that have appeared throughout history. Some are famous for being the most valuable, some as the largest and others are famous for being associated with royalty. Keep reading to learn about the most famous Opals in history.




The Olympic Australis

The “Olympic Australis” is an extraordinary & unique Opal that is reportedly the largest & most valuable Gem Opal ever found. It was found in August 1956 in Coober Pedy, South Australia at the “Eight Mile” Opal field.

The Miner who found it was prospecting 30 feet down in the mine at the time. He decided to name the Opal after the Olympic games which were happening in Melbourne that year so hence the name the “Olympic Australis”. The fact that just 1% of the Opal is soil that is adhering to it while the remaining 99% is pure Gem Opal is what makes the Opal the most valuable Gem Opal ever reported.

The current value is at over $2,500,000AUD! It weighs 17,000 carats (3450 grams) and is 11 inches long (280mm), with a height of 4¾ inches (120mm) and a width of 4½ inches (115mm). There are estimates that say over 7000 carats could be cut from the Opal, however it is way too unique & extraordinary in its current state the plans are firmly to leave it exactly like it was found.

It currently resides at the Altmann & Cherny’s in Melbourne. They are a family run business who has an amazing collection of Opals. Their showroom is at 128 Exhibition Street, Melbourne and you can see this amazing Opal during showroom hours. For more information visit their website.

The Aurora Australis

The “Aurora Australia” is considered the world’s most valuable Black Opal. Found in 1938 it was dug up in an old sea bed at Lightning Ridge, New South Wales.

Bought by Altmann & Cherny’s as a semi rough Opal which they cut and polished into an oval shape. Apart from the distinctive impression of a star fish on the back on the stone the full rarity & value comes from its size and strong vibrant colours. Its harlequin pattern with dominant blue, green and red colours on a black background resembles the bright southern lights which is how they came up with the name the “Aurora Australis”.

Worth an estimated $1,000,000AUD the” Aurora Australis” weighs 180 carats and is 3inches by 1.8 inches. If you want to see the stone it’s on permanent display at Altman’s & Cherny’s Sydney Showroom 19 – 31 Pitt Street, Sydney. You can see the Opal on their website.

The Butterfly Stone / The Red Admiral

Butterfly Opal or The Red Admiral This famous Opal gets its name from its resemblance to the British buttery fly, The Red Admiral and its predominantly red colour visible from all angles. Also known as the Butterfly stone it was found during World War 1 on the ‘Phone Line Field’. Finally named in 1920 it is said to be 51 carats and apart from its striking red colours & butterfly resemblance the world renowned Opal expert Len Cram quoted the following about the Opal:

“If you turn this magnificent gem on its side it changes from a butterfly to a full-length picture of a Spanish dancer in traditional broad ruffled dress, perfect in pose and movement, aflame with fiery lights.”

As of 2004 it was in the care of Percy Marks & Co who have had it twice through the Opals history with the other known owner being the late Mrs Drysdale of Sydney.

Read more about The Butterfly Stone / The Red Admiral

The Fire Queen

The Fire Queen has an interesting and somewhat sad history. Found roughly around 1906 in the Angledool diggings the Fire Queen was originally named ‘Dunstans’s Stone’ after its finder Charlie Dunstan. It was alive with colour and dubbed too beautiful for words – truely a unique piece.

Read More about The Fire Queen

The Black Prince

The Black Prince Opal has a stunning beauty and one of the unique pieces of opals. The Black Prince Opal is also known as ‘Harlequin Prince. This wonderful opal was found at Phone Line in the year 1915. The Black Prince Opal takes the pride of finding out this lovely gem. The Black Prince Opal exhibits a flag pattern one side red color on the other side. It weighs 181 carats. The Black Prince has a flag pattern on one side and is red on the other, and the face of the opal is marked by a sand hole.

Read More about The Black Prince

Empress of Australia

‘Empress of Australia’ was mined in 1915 from the same patch on Phone Line as ‘Pride of Australia’ by Urwin and Brown. First known as ‘Kaleidoscope Queen’, then ‘Tartan Queen’, this stone measured 3 x 2 3/4 x 2 1/4 inches in the rough. The Empress of ‘Australia Opal was then cut and shaped in a beautiful way that the bright red patches in it were revealed at most, which makes it a wonderful jewel. She was shaped out and polished to reveal the glowing patches of red to best advantage, probably weighing 500 carats.

Read More about Empress of Australia

The Flame Queen

The Flame Queen’s flat central raised dome flashes red or gold depending on the angle of view, and is surrounded by a band of deep blue-green, giving the stone an appearance somewhat like that of a fried egg. The Flame Queen weighs 263.18 carats (52.64 g) and is somewhat triangular in shape, measuring 7.0 x 6.3 x 1.2 centimeters (2.75 x 2.50 x .50 inches).

Read More about The Flame Queen

Halleys Comet

“Halley’s Comet”, is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest uncut black opal nobby. The massive stone was found by a group of opal miners on the Leaning Tree Claim at Lightning Ridge known as “The Lunatic Hill Syndicate” about the time “Halleys Comet” appeared in Australian skies.

Read More about Halleys Comet

Pride of Australia / Red Emperor

‘Pride of Australia’, also known as ‘Red Emperor’, was found in 1915 by Tom Urwin and Snowy Brown at Phone Line (off Fred Reece Way). The Pride of Australia is shaped like the continent. The 2″ x 3″ opal has black and blue veins interlaced with brilliant red streaks. By 1954, it had toured at least five World Fairs as “the greatest opal of Australia, and therefore the greatest opal in the world.” This double-sided gem cut to a 225 carat stone that just fit into a tobacco tin. There were two distinct colour bars. The one on the back was much lighter and almost harlequin, totally different to the main bar of dark, rich flashes of colour.

Read More about Pride of Australia / Red Emperor

More famous Opals to come!

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