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The World's Most Valuable Opals

Top 7 Most Valuable Opals in the World

Found in earrings, special occasion rings, and many other types of jewelry, opals possess a dazzling array of colors and unique features that stand apart from other valuable gemstones. The world’s most expensive opals feature blends of natural materials that create beautiful and iridescent effects. They aren’t budget-friendly for the average person, but that doesn’t mean we can’t admire them all the same.

Whether large, expensive, rare, or a combination of the three, we’ll explore some of the most valuable opals in the world.

1. The Flame Queen

The rarest among opals, the Flame Queen is a black opal mined from Bald Hill in Australia, where most of the world’s opal mines are located. Discovered in the early 1900s (experts debate its exact discovery date), the black nobby opal weighs 261 carats and features notable red flashes and greenish-blue outer edges. Christie’s, a renowned art and luxury dealer, auctioned the Flame Queen in 1980 for a record-breaking $1 million — an estimated value of $3.6 million in 2024 — and the opal remained on display at the Gemological Institute until 1981.

After intense bidding, the Flame Queen sold at a Los Angeles auction in 2008 for $120,000. In 2020, it sold for $87,500 at a Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction in New York City. 

2. Olympic Australis

At 11 inches long, 4.5 inches tall, and weighing more than 17,00 carrots, the Olympic Australis is one of the largest opals ever found, even earning a Guinness World Record. At an astonishing 7.5 pounds, it was valued at $1.3 million in 1997 and $1.9 million as of 2023, setting another record as one of the most expensive opals in the world. Appraisers also admire the Olympic Australis for its purity — if cut into 1-carat stones, they thought each could sell at a wholesale price of USD$180. 

Although the Olympic Australis remains behind closed doors in a showroom in Sydney, Australia, photos and descriptions say a lot about its beauty. Named after the Aurora Australis, the stone’s name refers to its fiery hues and iridescent quality.

3. Halley’s Comet Opal

Mined at Lightning Ridge in Australia, Halley’s Comet weighs 1,982.5 carats with dimensions of 4 x 2.62 x 2.5 inches, making it the largest uncut black opal and third-largest gem ever found. Its name originates from its time of discovery, which was when Halley’s Comet was visible over Australia. The opal sold for $1.2 million at a 2006 auction.

4. Virgin Rainbow

With a $1-million value and unique appearance, the Virgin Rainbow Opal is one of the rarest and most expensive opals despite sizing in at just 72 carats. Sometimes called the Queen of Gemstones, this crystal opal’s colors are vibrant, and the pipe-shaped stone features a luminescent glow and rainbow-like radiance that it's named for. Its glowing quality has a unique aspect to it — the darker the light, the brighter the stone becomes.

The chromatic mutations of the Virgin Rainbow are likely due to its fossilization inside the skeleton of a prehistoric cuttlefish-like animal. Celebrity opal miner John Dunstan discovered the Virgin Rainbow in 2003 at Three Mile Fields in South Australia.

5. Aurora Australis

Charlie Dunstan discovered the Aurora Australis in Lightning Ridge, Australia, in 1938. It’s valued at AUD$1 million in 2005, which is about USD$653,000 today, and measures at 3 inches by 1.8 inches. With a distinctive starfish impression on its reverse face, the 180-carat stone has a harlequin pattern of red, green, and blue set against a black background. After purchasing the gem, opal specialists Altmann and Cherny cut and polished it into a brilliant oval shape.

6. Pride of Australia/Red Emperor

Tom Urwin and Snowy Brown discovered the Pride of Australia, also known as the Red Emperor, in 1915 at Lightning Ridge. This 225-carat opal has brilliant red streaks with black and blue veins, and its shape resembles the continent of Australia.

The double-sided gem has two distinct color bars the reverse bar is lighter compared to the dark, rich flashes of color found in front. In 1931, the Pride of Australia's value was USD$2,500. In the 1950s, D. Hubert Eaton, President and Founder of the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, purchased the opal for a reputed $150,000 euro, the equivalent of USD$1.9 million in 2024.

7. Sea of Opal

The world’s largest black opal as of 2024, the Sea of Opal, is 11,340.95 carats, a Guinness World Record. Visible in bright light, its magnificent blue patch resembles a swimming fish, and its green sparkle looks like seaweed. The late Christine Rousel, Australia’s renowned opal carver, cut and contour-polished the stone to highlight its natural beauty. While the Sea of Opal isn’t nearly the most expensive opal, it still fetched a starting price of $150,000 at a 2015 auction.

Find Unique Opal Jewelry at Jeweler’s Touch

Thanks to our expert jewelers and GIA gemologists, Jeweler’s Touch has many fine opals and other gemstones to choose from in our California-based store. Browse our extensive collections of rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, charms, pendants, and more to see why we’re the winner of the Los Angeles TIme’s “Best of Southland” many times over.

If our selection inspires your imagination, our jewelry professionals can help design custom jewelry based on your vision. Browse our online or in-person Brea, California shop, and contact us today to find your own opal.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I determine the quality of an opal before purchasing?

High quality opals often come with certifications of authenticity. Consider the origin of the opal — Australian regions such as Lightning Ridge or Coober Pedy have produced many of the world’s finest opals. Look for aesthetic characteristics, such as the color vibrancy, brightness, clarity, body tones, and unique patterns.

What are the best settings and metal for opal jewelry to ensure durability?

Opals fare best when paired with protective settings that keep it securely in place and safe from abrasions or impact. A low setting can add extra wearability, protection, and durability as it keeps the stone out of the way of hazards. Durable metals such as gold, platinum, and sterling silver provide strength that minimizes bending and warping over time.

Are there specific care instructions for opal jewelry to maintain its beauty?

Gently clean opal jewelry on a regular basis using a soft washcloth and mild soap. A soft toothbrush can help maintain its finish. Avoid any harsh cleaners or materials. Jewelers can also assist with maintenance and repairs.

Can you wear opals every day, or are they more suitable for occasional wear?

Opals aren’t as hard as diamonds or other durable gemstones, but you can still wear them regularly. To minimize the risk of damage, opt for a protective setting, maintain your jewelry regularly, and avoid wearing your jewelry while doing chores or other potentially rough tasks.

What factors influence the pricing of opal jewelry?

According to the Gem Encyclopedia, gem evaluations and pricing consider factors such as the type of opal, ratio and quality of play-of-color, transparency, clarity, and cut.

Is opal expensive?

In addition to aesthetic and quality factors, the price of opal depends on the type of opal. For instance, white opal is common and costs between $10 and $150 per carat. Black opal is the most valuable opal, ranging between $50 and $10,000 per carat.

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