From their geological rarity to their cultural significance, Black Opal has every reason to be expensive. Opals are beautiful and fascinating gemstones, but Black Opals are particularly special and particularly expensive. A single black opal can fetch upwards of $15,000 per carat when the market is high, making them one of the most expensive gemstones in the entire world.
While per carat of ordinary opal can be purchased within $100, a high-end black opal is hard to find with a budget of less than $10,000. We are thus here to find out why these extraordinary gemstones are so expensive to purchase and why should you get one of them. Interested? Let’s get started-
What is black opal?
Black opal is a type of gemstone that has a dark body color, typically black or dark gray, with vivid flashes of bright colors that shimmer and dance across its surface when it is viewed from different angles. The dark body color enhances the brightness and play of colors, making black opal one of the most sought-after and valuable types of opals across the whole world.
Where Black Opals can be found?
A small town named Lightning Ridge in South Wales, Australia is the main source of 90% of the Black Opal found in the whole world. Opals found in this region were formed millions of years ago when silica-rich solutions seeped into the cracks and cavities of the local sandstone. Over time, the silica solidified and formed the unique opal formations that we see today.
In addition to Lightning Ridge, black opals can also be found in other parts of Australia, such as Mintabie, Coober Pedy, and Andamooka. However, the opals from these locations are generally not as high quality or as valuable as those from Lightning Ridge.
What are the types of Black Opals?
Black opals are certainly of one particular type. But depending on the body tone or darkness of the stone, these gems can be classified from N1 to N4, with N1 being the darkest and N4 being the lightest. In particular, N1 and N2 types of Black Opals are from Lightning Ridge. As a result, they ask for the biggest budget to spend to grab one of such stones. Semi-black opals are another type of black opal that has a lighter body tone, typically ranging from N3 to N4. While not as highly valued as N1 or N2, semi-black opals can still be quite beautiful and are more affordable for those on a budget. There are also black opals that come from other parts of the world, such as Ethiopia. These opals can vary in quality and color and are generally more affordable than their Australian counterparts.
How much does Black Opal cost?
Here is the estimated budget one may need to have to grab one such stone from the market-
Price Range (USD)
N1-N2 (Lightning Ridge)
$500-$5000 per carat
N3-N4 (Lightning Ridge)
$200-$500 per carat
$50-$200 per carat
$200-$500 per carat
It is super important to note that the price of such stone varies depending on the size, quality, and overall beauty. At the same time, the color of the stone will also determine whether you will have to pay more for the gemstone or not. In particular, gemstones that have a red or yellowish color tend to be expensive compared to those that have green, blue, and purple hues.
What are some other types of opal and how expensive they are?
Each and every opal has some unique characteristics that separate one type from the other. Here are some of the common types of opal you will notice on the market-
Type of opal
Price in USD
- White opal: White opal is the least expensive item on this list. with a light body color and flashes of lights, they are good for making cheap ornaments.
- Boulder Opal: Boulder Opal is comparatively expensive. Depending on the quality of the material available on the gemstone, the price per carat of Boulder opal can reach $1000 at any time. This opal is formed within ironstone boulders and has a natural backing of the host rock. It's often cut with the natural rock formation still attached to the back, giving it a unique appearance.
- Crystal Opal: Crystal opal is popular for its high and intense play of color. Most of the time crystal opals are transparent or semi-transparent in appearance and come with flashes of vibrant color. In terms of price, they almost convey the same price as black opals.
- Fire opal: With a minimal show of color, fire opal is another type of gemstone that you can grab at a low-end price range. This type of opal usually comes in a bright yellow, red, or orange color. It is possible to get such kinds of gemstones from $20 to $500.
- Ethiopian Opal: Ethiopian counterparts are comparatively newer in this genre. These gemstones are more of a new invention. But they are highly valued for their bright play of color. It is possible to get such a gemstone from $20 to $500 per carat, depending on the quality and color play of the stone.
Why Black Opal is so expensive?
If you have clicked on this article, you maybe are here to grab information about why Black Opal is so expensive compared to other gemstones. If you have read the article from the top until now, you might have got some points about why these gemstones are comparatively more expensive than other stones. But these are not the only things that determine the overall cost of these stones. If you would like to know more, here is my detailed discussion of the reasons behind the high-end price range of Black Opals-
Number one: they are hard to find
Authentic and real Black opals can be found only in Lightning Ridge, Australia. This small mining town in New South Wales is home to the world's largest deposit of black opals, which are considered the highest-quality opals in the world. Opals from Lightning Ridge are extremely rare, making up less than 1% of all opals mined. The scarcity of these stones, combined with their unique beauty, makes them highly sought after by collectors and investors.
Number two: Body tone
One of the most important factors to determine the value of any gemstone is the body tone that the stone provides. By body tone, I am trying to mention the opal’s base or background color. In particular, the color of the background of a black opal can be from light gray to dark black. An opal with a darker black background color is pretty rare to find and thus tends to be more expensive than most other available opals. The darker the body tone, the more vivid and intense the color flashes appear against the black background. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) uses a scale to grade the body tone of black opals, ranging from N1 (darkest) to N4 (lightest). N1 and N2 black opals are considered the most valuable due to their dark body tone. These opals appear almost black when viewed from the top, but when viewed from the side or angled, they display bright and vivid flashes of color. N3 and N4 black opals have a lighter body tone and are considered less valuable than N1 and N2 opals.
Number three: Play of color
By the term play of color, I am referring to all those colors that come out of the stone when seen from different angles. Black opals are known for their intense and vivid play of color, which can include flashes of red, blue, green, purple, and orange. The more intense and varied the colors, the more valuable the opal. The play of color is created by the interference and diffraction of light. These gemstones with a high density of spheres that are arranged in regular and uniform patterns tend to deliver the most intense play of color, making them one of the most valuable gemstones available across the whole world.
Number four: pattern
The pattern along with the play of color also determines the value of a gemstone. In general, a black opal tends to come in four different patterns. Here is the list of the patterns you may find in a gemstone-
- Harlequin: This pattern consists of a grid of small, square color patches that form a repeating pattern across the surface of the opal.
- Rolling Flash: This pattern consists of a rolling wave of color that moves across the surface of the opal.
- Floral: This pattern consists of patches of color arranged in a flower-like pattern.
- Pinfire: This pattern consists of small, round dots of color that are scattered across the surface of the opal.
If you would like to know more about the patterns of different types of Gemstones, you can visit https://www.gemstone.org/opal. Some other important organizations that may help you in getting more detailed and specific information are https://www.gia.edu/ and http://australianopalcentre.com/.
Number five: size
Another factor that may play a role in determining the value of a gemstone is its size. Although the size of opal is not that important, opal that has a vibrant play of color and a good size will ask for a higher price in general.
Number six: Cut and shape
The cut and shape of the opal are important in determining the value because a well-cut stone will reflect the play of color very precisely. Besides, the unique design of any stone makes it more desirable, which will ultimately raise the overall price of the gem. Oval and pear-shaped black opals are the most common shapes, but freeform shapes and asymmetrical cuts can also be highly valued.
Number seven: treatment
Any treated opals lose their value. Treatment means polishing the stone with oils, waxes, or resins to fill small cracks or pits on the surface. In particular, a black opal does not come with any treatment, causing them to ask for a higher price range. It is thus always recommended that you always purchase your gemstones from shops or dealers who are well-reputed for their services. That is how you can think about getting the best product on your budget.
Number eight: demand and market trends
Black opals are being sold at the highest possible rate than ever before. Therefore, it is worth saying that the price of such gemstones will rise or downgrade depending on the trend ongoing. The rise in demand has also led to an increase in prices, as the supply of high-quality black opals is limited. Market trends, such as the popularity of certain patterns or shapes, can also affect the value of black opals.
Why Black Opal is unique?
Although almost all types of opals are formed from Silica and have a similar chemical composition, Black opals are unique because of their appearance and value. While other gemstones have a pale body color and display a range of colors in a softer or pastel-like manner, these gemstones have a dark or black body color that enhances the play of color and makes it more vivid and intense. You can find opals across the whole world, including Mexico, Brazil, and Ethiopia, and are often more readily available but black opals are only found in Lightening Ridge, Australia. As a result, these gemstones are unique like heaven and hell.
Black opals are highly valued for their unique beauty, rarity, and quality. The combination of factors that determine their value, including body tone, the play of color, pattern, size, cut, and market trends, make them one of the most expensive gemstones in the world. As with any investment, it is important to purchase black opals from reputable dealers and to have them certified by a gemologist to ensure their authenticity and value. Whether you are a collector or investor, black opal is a stunning and timeless addition to any collection.