Australian Opals: What Types of Opals Can You Buy?

Featuring a spectacular array of colours and patterns, it can seem like there are endless types of Australian opal out there. Renowned as 'The Queen of Gems', opal truly is one of the most magnificent, precious and rare gemstones on earth. Gem quality opal, which is set in gold and silver jewellery, is highly prized for its range of brilliant colours - from rich, deep blues, vivid greens and electric purples to vibrant oranges, striking red tones and neon pinks. In fact, opals feature every spectral colour known to man.

Opals also have extraordinary patterns with captivating, descriptive names like Harlequin, Flower garden, Chinese writing, Mackerel sky, Rolling flash, Flagstone, Chaff and Pinfire, among others. Along with other factors such as colour, cut, size, brilliance, body tone and carat weight, pattern is one of the key elements that determines its price. However the main pricing factor is its type, which can be broken down into three forms – solids, doublets and triplets. 


Solid Australian opals have been mined straight from the ground as a rough piece of opal-bearing rock, and then cut and polished to perfection. Most opal from Australia has been ethically mined by small teams in outback locations such as Lightning Ridge or White Cliffs in NSW; Coober Pedy in South Australia; and Winton, Jundah and Opalton in Western Queensland.

Rough opal can take the form of a nobby, be found in a seam, or be uncovered in its ironstone host rock, as is the case with Queensland boulder opal. Australia is the world's leading producer of commercial, gem grade opal and is recognised as producing the finest in the world.

There are four types of solid Australian opals – black opal, white or light opal, crystal opal, and boulder opal. 


Found only in Australia, mainly at Lightning Ridge in outback New South Wales, black opal is the world's rarest and most valuable type. Ablaze with a rich and vibrant rainbow of colour set against a dark or black body tone, this type is highly prized for its intense spectrum and features in the world's finest jewellery collections. If a body tone is dark but not truly black, it is known as dark opal. 

Lightning Ridge black opal

A collection of Lightning Ridge black opal gemstones


Found mainly at Coober Pedy and Mintabie in South Australia and White Cliffs in New South Wales, precious white or light opal usually features a softer, more pastel range of colours than its darker counterpart. This type has a white or light body tone, and can also be referred to as milky opal.


Featuring a translucent, light body tone, crystal opal has earned its name because of its resemblance to rock crystal or glass due to its translucency or transparency. Hold this gem up to the light and observe some light passing through this beautiful stone. Another interesting feature is the orange glow its body holds if you shine a light through it from behind. Some dark and black opal can exhibit translucency too, and this is called black crystal opal.


Found mainly in Western Queensland, this beautiful variety is similar in appearance to black opals but forms naturally in cavities within brown-red coloured ironstone or ‘boulder’. This ironstone rock is often included on the back of the cut and polished gemstone. Colour rich and featuring a dark body tone, boulder opal has become one of the most popular types of Australian gems for jewellery designers to set into opal jewelry.

Queensland boulder opal

 A collection of rough and cut Queensland boulder opal 


Doublet and triplet opals are composite stones that comprise a slice of natural opal layered with other materials to create the look of a natural solid black opal. A triplet is a thin slice of colourful light opal sandwiched between a clear domed quartz capping and a black backing, which is usually a layer of dark non-precious opal known as ‘potch’. A doublet is similar to a triplet but without a quartz capping. 

Australian doublet opal

A doublet opal, which is a slice of natural Australian opal on a black backing

Now you know more about the types of Australian opal, why not explore the full range in our exclusive opal jewellery and gemstone collection.