Lightning Ridge is a town located in the central northern area of New South Wales in Australia. The town is very close to the Queensland border. Lightning Ridge is very well known for its black opals; the best and most expensive opals in the world. This is why Lightning Ridge is known as the black opal capital of the world. The name originated from some explorers passing through that found the bodies of a farmer and his large flock of sheep that had been struck by lightning. Electrical storms are very common in the area, and throughout the Australian Outback. The town is also a famous archaeological site for dinosaur bones, some of which are opalised.
The main type of opal found in Lightning Ridge is black opal. It is also known as the fire of the desert by the local Aboriginies. This should not be confused however with mexican fire opal, or treated opals. Lightning Ridge opals are all 100% natural and untreated. Some crystal, grey, dark and white opals have also been discovered in the towns region. These should also not be discarded as the secondary opal that comes from lightning ridge as they are very spectacular pieces as well. In fact, some of the best crystal and white opals have been found in lightning ridge. In comparison to other opals, black opal is the most valuable type of opal. This is because of the dark body tone and rich, vibrant colour play and pattern found in the opals. Black Opal has been recorded at selling at very high prices of up to $20,000 a carat. This opal must have been a very special one! Just because an opal is black however doesn’t mean that it is automatically valuable; it comes down to the rarity of the pattern and colours, size and weight in the opal itself and often what people are willing to pay for it. For miners, it is very lucky to find red colours within the opals they discover. The more red pattern they find usually means the more its worth.
The mine sites in Lightning Ridge go down up to 1.5km. They are very deep, and very dangerous and hot to work in. This is why most mining is done in the winter months. Most rain comes through then in the region and it assists the miners to be able to see the opal colour in the dirt. There is over 200 mine sites in the region. Sourcing black opal is no easy feat, but very rewarding for some of those that try. Black Opals are one of the rarest gemstones on Earth, and far more rarer than diamonds, ruby and sapphires. To gauge just how precious the black opal is, most mine sites are not available to purchase by outsiders of the town. Most deals of the mine sites are done between locals who live within the town and not available to purchase by outside investors. The town has also had a great deal of government overseeing on its vegetation and mining throughout the years. It is carefully watched and often restricted by the amount of opal that is allowed to be mined at a time.