World’s Most Famous Opals

We publish courtesy of IDI blog

Author: Roe Kalb

In the middle Ages, the opal was considered a stone that could provide great luck because it was believed to possess all the virtues of each gemstone whose colors were represented in its color spectrum.


The opal was also believed to confer the possessor with the power of invisibility if wrapped in a bay leaf and held in the hand. Here are some interesting stories behind the world’s most famous opals:

Olympic Australis

The Olympic Australis is known as the largest and most valuable gem-quality opal ever found. The Olympic Australis was named in honor of the Melbourne Olympic Games and was valued at AUD$2,500,000 in 2005.  Due to the purity of the extraordinary Olympic Australis opal, upward of 7,000 carats could be cut from the rough stone. But owing to its uniqueness, this opal remained exactly as it was found.

Rough Opal

Aurora Australis

The Aurora Australis was discovered at Lightning Ridge, an old sea bed, in 1938 by Charlie Dunstan and is considered the world’s most valuable black opals. The cut and polished stone features a harlequin pattern in which red, green, and blue are the dominant colors against the stone’s black background. The Aurora Australis weighs 180 carats and measures 3 inches by 1.8 inches.


The Flamingo and the Black Prince

The Black Prince, originally known as Harlequin Prince, was found in 1915 at Phone Line by Tom Urwin and Snowy Brown, as were the Pride of Australia, the Empress of Australia, and the Flamingo opals. Of the four, the Flamingo was the largest – weighing over 800 carats! In 1920, Urwin and Brown sold all four stones for £2000 to Ernie Sherman, whose sister Bertha named them. This was the most money paid for black opals at the time.

Of the four Phone Line opals the Black Price could be considered the least significant – yet still weighed 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. A wealthy American soldier bought the Black Prince in England and eventually donated the stone to the New York Museum of Natural History. Later, the opal joined the collection at the Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Los Angeles, only to be stolen in the same theft at the Pride of Australia.

Opal Jewelry

Fire Queen

In November 1906, Charlie Dunstan found “Dunstan’s Stone” (later renamed he Fire Queen) at the Angledool Diggings. The opal weighed nearly 900 carats and at the time was the largest opal ever discovered. Dunstan traveled into Angeldool with the opal and sold it for a mere £100. According to legend, while he was in town he got drunk and lost two other large opals he was carrying. In November 1910, Dunstan was found dead in his hut from a gunshot wound to the head. The jury ruled that his death was a suicide.

The Fire Queen was resold a number of times, and each transaction proved a challenge because at the time there was little market for large black opals. But by 1928 the Fire Queen had been renamed and valued at £40,000 and was on display at the Chicago Museum. The Fire Queen was resold to John D. Rockefeller in the 1940s for £75,000 and joined the Rockefeller family’s prestigious gemstone collection.

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