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Types of Lightning Ridge Opals

The best quality of opal in the world is mined in the Lightning Ridge area of New South Wales, Australia. It is renowned for its vibrant play-of-color, displaying a spectrum of colors when viewed from different angles. Lightning Ridge opals are highly valued in the gemstone market for their unique and captivating appearance. If your in the market to purchase such an opal from this region then there is a lot to consider as there are many different types of Lightning Ridge opals to choose from which we have detailed below.

What is Potch?

To understand the different types of opals that come from Lightning Ridge, first we must understand what host rock they are discovered in. Potch is a term commonly used in the context of opals. It refers to the common opal, often lacking the play-of-color that characterizes precious opals. The color of potch ranges from a desired black color, to dark grey to a very light grey. Potch can also be translucent or opaque. It iss typically left as a backing or base when cutting and setting precious opals. While potch itself may not display the brilliant colors associated with precious opals, it plays a crucial role in enhancing the appearance and durability of the final opal gemstone.

Black Opals

Black opals are a specific variety of precious opals known for their dark body tone, which can range from very dark gray to jet black. What sets them apart is their vibrant play-of-color, displaying intense and brilliant flashes of spectral hues. The most famous source of black opals is Lightning Ridge in New South Wales, Australia. The darker potch background enhances the contrast of the play-of-color, making black opals highly sought after and valued in the gemstone market. They are often the most valued type of opal in the gemstone market. Shop Black Opals 

Red Black Opal 2.72 ct
A Black Opal from Lightning Ridge
Dark Opals have a greyish bodytone

Dark Opals

Dark opals, like black opals, refer to precious opals with a dark body tone. The term “dark opal” is a broader category that includes opals with body tones ranging from dark gray to light grey. While black opals specifically have a black body tone, dark opals can encompass a spectrum of darker grey tones. You can determine the body tone by looking at the potch on the back of the opal. The key feature of both black and dark opals is the vibrant play-of-color, where intense flashes of color are visible against the dark background. Lightning Ridge in Australia is renowned for producing both black and dark opals. Dark opals have risen in popularity in recent years as they can be very beautiful. Shop Dark Opals 

Light Opals

Light opals refer to precious opals that have a light to white body tone. Unlike black or dark opals, these opals have a paler background color, which allows the play-of-color to be more subtle and delicate. The play-of-color in light opals often includes pastel hues and can be quite captivating, though it may not be as contrasted as the colors in black or dark opals. Light opals are found in various opal fields, with different regions producing opals of varying body tones and color patterns. In this instance we are only concerned with light opals discovered in Lightning Ridge.

Light Opals are have much lighter shades of grey potch
Black Crystal Opals have some black potch but are still slightly transparent

Black Crystal Opals

Black crystal opals combine characteristics of black opals and crystal opals. These opals have a transparent to semi-transparent bodytone, allowing light to slightly pass through, and they also possess the black body tone associated with black opals. The slight transparency of black crystal opals enhances the play-of-color, creating a captivating effect against the black potch background. Lightning Ridge in Australia is a notable source for black crystal opals, known for their vivid colors and intriguing visual appeal. Shop Black Crystal Opals

Dark Crystal Opals

Dark crystal opals share similarities with black crystal opals, as they have a transparent to semi-transparent body. However, the key distinction is that dark crystal opals have a dark greyish body tone compared to the black body tone of black crystal opals. This darker background enhances the intensity and contrast of the play-of-color, making these opals visually striking. Lightning Ridge in Australia is known for producing dark crystal opals, showcasing vibrant colors against their transparent to semi-transparent backdrop.

Just like black crystal opals, dark crystal opals are slightly transparent but with grey shaded potch
Crystal Opals are fully transparent in nature

Crystal Opals

Crystal opals are a type of precious opal known for their transparent to semi-transparent body. Unlike black or dark opals, crystal opals have a colorless or light background, allowing light to evidently pass through the stone. The defining feature of crystal opals is their play-of-color, where vibrant spectral hues appear and dance within the gem. This play-of-color is often more visible and pronounced in crystal opals due to their transparent nature. These opals can be found in various opal fields, with Lightning Ridge in Australia being a notable source. It is important to set a crystal opal with the right backing to ensure they are displayed at their best. Please refer to our blog about how to set crystal opals here. Shop Crystal Opals

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