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Raw / Rough Opal

Raw opal refers to unprocessed, natural opal that has been extracted from the Earth. It has not undergone any cutting, polishing, or other treatments. Raw opal often retains its original, rough appearance, showcasing the natural colors and patterns within the stone.

How to identify Raw Opal?

Identifying raw opal involves considering various factors:

  1. *Color Play:* Look for the distinctive play of colors, known as “play-of-color.” Opals can exhibit flashes of various hues when viewed from different angles.
  2. *Transparency:* Raw Opals are typically not completely transparent. They often have some form of host rock left on them.
  3. *Surface Texture:* Raw opals often have a rough, unpolished surface. The texture can range from smooth to more rugged, depending on how it was extracted.
  4. *Weight:* Opals have a specific gravity generally lower than most gemstones, so they may feel lighter than expected for their size.
  5. *Host Rock:* In most cases, raw opals may still be embedded in their host rock. Examining the matrix or surrounding material can provide clues to its authenticity.
  6. *Opalescence:* Tilt the opal in different directions to observe how the colors change. Genuine opals display a captivating play of colors.

If you’re uncertain, it’s advisable to consult with a gemologist or opal expert who can perform more detailed tests to confirm the authenticity of the raw opal and assess its quality.

What does raw opal look like?

Raw opal can have various appearances, but it typically looks like a rough, uncut stone with a natural, unpolished surface. The external features can include:

  1. *Shape:* It may come in irregular shapes, often resembling fragments or pieces with no defined facets.
  2. *Color Variations:* The outer color may range from a dull, earthy tone to a more vibrant color, depending on the specific type of opal and the minerals present.
  3. *Surface Texture:* The surface is generally not smooth or polished; instead, it may have a textured or rugged appearance.
  4. *Inclusions:* Raw opals might have natural inclusions, which are impurities or other minerals trapped within the stone.

Remember that the play of colors (opalescence) is a distinctive feature of opals, and this is best observed when the stone is moved or viewed from different angles. The internal patterns and colors are often more apparent when the opal is cut and polished.

Image of a Raw / Rough Opal
Some Raw Opal from Winton

What is Raw Opal Worth?

Raw Opal is typically lest valuable than polished opals. There is some degree of risk involved when cutting opals from their raw state, so the value of them is much less than a finished stone. These risks include finding inclusions that were not visible when the stone was uncut. The opposite may also occur where you buy some rough opal and cannot see the great exposure of the opal inside which is then exposed during the cutting process; some people just get lucky when buying raw opals. The value of raw opal can vary widely based on several factors:

  1. *Type of Opal:* Different types of opals, such as black opal, white opal, crystal opal, and fire opal, have varying values. Black opals, for example, are often considered more valuable due to their rarity and vibrant play of colors.
  2. *Color Play:* The intensity, diversity, and brightness of the colors within the opal significantly impact its value. Strong and vivid play-of-color is generally more desirable.
  3. *Size and Carat Weight:* Larger and heavier opals are often more valuable, assuming other factors like color play and clarity are also favorable.
  4. *Transparency:* Opals with good transparency and clarity are typically more valuable than those with a more opaque appearance.
  5. *Origin:* Opals from certain locations, such as Australia, are highly regarded. Australian opals, especially those from Lightning Ridge, are known for their quality.
  6. *Inclusions:* The presence of inclusions or flaws can affect the value. In some cases, unique inclusions might enhance the opal’s character.

To determine the exact value of a specific raw opal, it’s recommended to consult with a gemologist or an opal expert who can assess the stone based on these factors and market conditions.

Where can you find Raw Opal?

Raw opal is found in various locations around the world, with some regions being particularly known for producing high-quality specimens. Some notable sources include:

  1. *Australia:* Australia is a major producer of opals, including renowned varieties like black opal from Lightning Ridge, white opal from Coober Pedy, and boulder opal from Queensland. Here are some key locations for raw opal in Australia:

*Lightning Ridge, New South Wales:* Renowned for its black opals, Lightning Ridge produces opals with a dark body tone that enhances the play of colors. Black opals from this region are highly sought after for their vibrant and captivating displays.

*Coober Pedy, South Australia:* Famous for white opals, Coober Pedy is one of the largest opal mining areas in the world. Opals from this region can range from light to dark and often have a milky or translucent appearance.

*Andamooka, South Australia:* This region is known for producing both crystal opals and white opals. Crystal opals are prized for their transparency and vivid colors.

*Boulder, Queensland:* Boulder opals are found in and around the town of Winton in Queensland. These opals are unique because they form within ironstone boulders, resulting in opals attached to the host rock. There are also other major areas for Boulder mining which include Koroit, Yowah, Quilpie, Duck Creek, Opalton, Eromanga and Jundah.

*Mintabie, South Australia (now closed):* Mintabie was once a notable source for opals, particularly crystal opals, but the opal field is now closed.

A map showing the mining regions of raw opal in Australia
A map showing the mining regions of raw opal in Australia
  1. *Ethiopia:* Ethiopian opals, including Welo opals, have gained popularity for their vibrant play of colors.
  2. *Mexico:* Opals are mined in various regions of Mexico, with Mexican fire opals being a distinctive variety known for their warm colors.
  3. *Brazil:* Brazil produces opals, with some regions yielding colorful specimens.
  4. *Peru:* Opals are found in certain areas of Peru, contributing to the global opal market.
  5. *United States:* Opals can be found in states like Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon, although production levels may vary.

Remember that opals are formed in sedimentary rocks, often in association with silica deposits. Before engaging in any opal mining or purchasing, it’s essential to be aware of local regulations and ethical practices. Additionally, seeking guidance from experts can help ensure the authenticity and quality of raw opals.

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