Coober Pedy is an outback desert town located in South Australia in Australia, around 900km north of Adelaide on the Stuart Highway. The Stuart Highway is one of Australia’s major highways that runs from Darwin, thru Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, Coober Pedy and down to Adelaide. Coober Pedy is a town that is very famous for being the best source in the world of precious crystal and white opal. It is the reason why Coober Pedy is known as the opal capital of the world. It is located at the very bottom of the artisan basin, where the flood of water lye within Australia’s inland areas which is what created Opal. Coober Pedy is also a famous tourist destination, not only for the the opals but also for its large amount of underground residences. There is even an underground church. The name Coober Pedy translates in the local Aboriginal language to mean ‘boys waterhole’ (kupa-piti). Coober Pedy has over 70 mining fields and is today the largest opal mining area in the whole world.
Of all opal mined, only 10% is the sought after precious opal with beautiful colours such as that which is found in crystal and white opal in Coober Pedy. The rest of the stone found is mostly known as potch. Potch is often used to make opal doublets and opal triplets. Opal doublets are a thin slice of opal affixed to a potch backing, and triplets also have a glass layer on the top. Often, Coober Pedy crystal is used to make both doublets and triplets to make more affordable and stronger pieces for jewellers to use in jewellery when selling retail.
While some White Opal has been discovered in other mine sites in Australia such as Lightning Ridge and Mintabie, Coober Pedy is predominately the main source of it. White Opal is also known as fire white opal, milk or milky opal and often have a body tone of N7 to N9. Fire White Opal is often used to describe these stones as quiet often they offer fire colours of reds and oranges and have a very high brightness about them. White Opal is one of the most popular opals sourced in the world today as they are very unique, and one of a kind.
Crystal Opal is much the same as White Opal. It has been discovered in other mine sites in Australia (lightning ridge and mintabie, and crystallised wood in sites such as Winton), however most of the worlds crystal opal is sourced from Coober Pedy. Crystal opal differentiates from white opal by being translucent; meaning you can see light through the opal apposed to being solid colours that dont allow light to come through in white opal. Crystal Opal is widely sourced for jewellery making. Smaller crystal opals often accompany many other gemstones such as diamonds, sapphires and rubys in such things as rings and bracelets. Generally speaking, White Opal is often more valued than Crystal Opal. In saying that however there are some great Crystal Opal pieces around with great colours which demands a higher price from sellers.