Australian mines were the origin of the most famous opals in history.
The Olympic Australis
At 11 inches long, 4 ¾ inches tall and 4 ½ inches wide, the Olympic Australis is the largest gem opal in the world. It weighs 17,000 carats (3.45 kg). The Olympic Australis was found in 1956 at a mine in South Australia’s Coober Pedy. That year the Olympic games were being held in Australia, so the miner decided to name the gem after the Olympic games.
The Aurora Australis
The Aurora Australia is the most valuable black opal in the world. The gem was found in Lightening Ridge, in NSW. Altmann & Cherny brought it in a semi rough state and they later cut and polished it into a harlequin pattern. The opal has a black background, interspersed with green, blue and red colours. The gem was named Aurora Australis after the southern lights. The value of the gem is estimated at AUD1,000,000.
The Queen’s Opal
The Queen’s Opal, also known as the Andamooka Opal, was chosen by the government to present to Queen Elizabeth II when the queen was slated to visit Australia for the first time. It shone with blue, green and red colors, and was later set into a palladium necklace.
The Pride of Australia
The Pride of Australia, or Red Emperor, was discovered in 1915 at a mine known as Phone Line. It is called the Pride of Australia because its shape resembles that of the continent. The opal has blue and black veins, interspersed with red streaks. Unfortunately, the Pride of Australia was stolen from a display at the Forest Lawn Memorial Museum in 1961. It has never been recovered.
The Halley’s Comet Opal
The Halley’s Comet Opal was so named because it was mined in 1886, a year that the Halley’s Comet was seen. This uncut black opal, the largest one found to date, was unearthed at Lightening Ridge, NSW.
There have also been many famous people who were enamored with opals.
Andy Warhol, one of the most recognized artists of the modern world, fell hard and fast into his love affair with this magnificent gemstone. He became an avid collector, and in 1977 Warhol featured photos of the
gemstone taken through a microscope at his exhibition Opal the Rainbow Gem at the ICA in London.
A Senator of the Roman Republic, Nonius, owned a fabulous Opal. The opal was set in a ring, and is said to have been the size and shape of a hazelnut. Roman General Mark Antony was so entranced by the moving lights within Nonius’ opal, his fascination led him to covet the stone which he sought as a gift for his lover Cleopatra. Antony offered Nonius several times the 2,000,000 Sesterces at which the Opal ring had been appraised, however Nonius refused to sell it, declaring it was his life. Nonius preferred to be banished from Rome losing all he owned, then to part with the opal.
A massive 14k vintage opal ring featuring a huge crystal opal surrounded by diamonds, was purchased by Elvis Presley in the early 1970’s. It was worn both on and off stage.
John Davison Rockefeller, America’s first billionaire and the world’s richest man, was taken by the alluring charms of Opals. He paid a record price for the mesmerizing ‘Fire Queen’ Opal.
Sarah Bernhardt was on of the most famous actresses of her time. She commissioned this ruby-eyed snake bracelet and ring (hathphul), inlaid with Opals, for her premiere as Cleopatra.
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Source & Image Credits: GIA.edu