Black opal prices are higher than light opal prices due to the superiority of their brightness, patterns and colour play. Whereas light opal fades in poor light or under fluorescent lights, black opal will retain strong colour.

Grey and semi-black opal from Lightning Ridge offers many of the brightness, pattern and colour benefits of black opal, but at more generally affordable prices.

A major reason for the relatively high price of black opal is its rareity and the difficulty in finding it. Unlike mineral ores or alluvial gem deposits opal occurs in small pockets or seams, rather than being uniformly spread throughout an area. Opal is "where you find it". Most opal miners work hard in difficult conditions and find nothing for months. A small percentage find just enough to live on, and a very very small percentage do well.

The book "Australian Precious Opal - A Guide Book for Professionals" by Andrew Cody (See Books Section on this website) is an interesting guide to the range of opals and their prices, especially the price difference between light and dark, though this information is now a little dated as prices have changed significantly since publication.

It is not uncommon for gem quality red or multicolour on black cut stones to reach over $1000 per carat sold wholesale on the opal fields, and prices for bright blues and greens can be over a $600 per carat. Most of the best gem quality stones go straight overseas to premium buyers in Japan or the US.

Throughout 1999 the amount of mining around Lightning Ridge dropped dramatically, with around 1/2 the activity of 1998. The reduced output continued in 2000-2003 and despite Grawin area rushes there continues to be a shortage of higher grade opal on the fields in 2004. Nobby material is now very difficult to obtain, and the discover and opening up of new nobby field is desperately required.

As a result of low opal output and falling US dollar (relative to the Australian dollar) prices have been rising considerably. For example, opal costing US$200 in 2002 would now in 2004 cost US$320 due to the falling US dollar alone, without the additional cost rise associated with the reduced opal supply.

Black Opal Retail Value in US Dollars:
Source: Opal Identification and Value - Paul Downing
Carat Weight Commercial Good Fine Extra Fine
1 to 5 100 & up 300-1,400 1,400-8,000 8,000-20,000
5 to 10 100 & up 300-1,400 1,400-8,000 8,000-20,000
10 to 15 100 & up 300-1,400 1,400-6,400 6,400-16,000
Semi-Black & Crystal-Black Opal Retail Value in US Dollars:
Source: Opal Identification and Value - Paul Downing
Carat Weight Commercial Good Fine Extra Fine
1 to 5 70 & up 300-1,200 1,200-3,000 3,000-5,000
5 to 10 70 & up 300-1,200 1,200-4,000 4,000-7,000
10 to 15 70 & up 300-1,200 1,200-3,600 3,600-6,400
Crystal-Opal Retail Value in US Dollars:
Source: Opal Identification and Value - Paul Downing
Carat Weight Commercial Good Fine Extra Fine
1 to 5 70 & up 150-500 500-1,000 1,000-2,000
5 to 10 70 & up 150-500 500-1,000 1,000-2,400
10 to 15 70 & up 150-500 500-1,000 1,000-2,000
White and Jelly Opal Retail Value in US Dollars:
Source: Opal Identification and Value - Paul Downing
Carat Weight Commercial Good Fine Extra Fine
1 to 7 8 - 16 16-50 50-150 150-350
7 to 15 16 - 50 50-100 100-220 220-350


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