The Capitol of Black Opal Lightning Ridge (LR) started as a sheep station and evolved into the primary black opal producing fields in the world and is a major producer of black opal on the world market today. The most sought after opal in Lightning Ridge is pitch-black base color with intensive 5-color fire in various patterns. The most valuable LR Black Opal has more red fire, more elaborate/definitive patterns, and has, as a rule of thumb, black base color. Valuations run 5 to 10 times higher than comparable crystal opal.

Generally, LR opal occurs in globs known as knobbies in various forms. Cutting knobbies does not follow the same rules as cutting seam opal from Coober Pedy, White Cliffs, etc. Lucky for us, most knobbies are faced or preworked (rubbed) in some way, hence, making our cutting decisions much easier. A “Rub” is sawed, cut, ground, sanded, etc., but needs shaping, polishing and finishing.

Knobbie CharacteristicsYou never know what is inside a knobbie.

  • Unlike seam opal
  • Asymmetrical globs, knobbie in shape
  • Occurs mostly w/green or purple fire
  • On black gradations of grey or on a translucent base
  • Red fire (not the pinky red of Coober Pedy opal) is seldom left uncut by the miners into finished stones and is sold on the ridge
  • Colors tend to be more intense
  • Electric greens & blues, red crimson
  • Flat mushroom shaped material
  • Opal replacement forms i.e., twigs, coral, shells, wood, snails




Listed below are gem quality, dark base rough.



A RUB is a preformed, unfinished stone, ready to be sanded and polished. Base is translucent to opaque in shades of grey through jet black. Fire is mostly blue, purple, green or mixtures of all these. Price varies from $5 to $100 each, with a few individual rubs priced above $100. If you are a cutter who does not dig working with knobbies, these rubs are really for you. The risk is removed and the joy remains in having a fine stone from the Lightning Ridge area. Some of our professional inlay designers use these stones because they get the sizes, similarities and contrasts that they want from these rubs. Many lapidaries like the simplicity, the time savings (no mysterious knobbies to cut through), the relatively low price and the known outcome. In Lightning Ridge the miners start stones and then decide not to complete them. We have discovered that there is a market for these rubbed preforms (Rubs in OZ). Here are a few examples.


LR Knobbies

Some interesting parcels of small pea knobbies from the Wyoming area in Lightning Ridge.



For those of you who are avid opal enthusiasts… here’s the best news. We have a few remaining pieces from a large parcel of Lightning Ridge BLACK OPAL . It is faced or sculpted and BEAUTIFUL. Prices run from a $100 per carat up to $10,000 per carat field price.

NEXT Check the Cut and Finished Stone section of this Catalogue for the pictures of high class opals the likes of which are rarely seen in the U.S. These special opals are available to you at field prices. If you have an interest please let us know and we’ll send the listing. Only we opal lovers really understand and appreciate the very finest. These stones seldom make it to the U.S. because they are purchased on the Lightning Ridge fields and resold in Asia or Europe, but seldom in the US.A. We’d like to change this.

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