Rarest opals on display

 23 May 2017 - 9:38

Rarest opals on display

By Raynald C Rivera / The Peninsula

An exhibition 100 million years in the making is set to offer gem enthusiasts in Doha a rare chance to see a stunning array of some of the rarest and most precious opals in the world.

Opening to the public tomorrow, Opals exhibition takes visitors 100 million years back in time when opals began forming in the South Australian desert through the collection to be displayed at the show.

Since the late 1800s, Australia has dominated opal production with more than 90 percent of the global output and 99 percent of the most precious opals have been found in South Australia. Some of the finest opals in the world are housed at the South Australian Museum.

For the first time, the South Australian Museum is taking nearly 70 pieces from its vast collection outside the country to exhibit and people in Doha are lucky to see the prized collection up close through the show to be launched at the Australian Embassy tomorrow. The collection comprises highlights from a highly successful exhibition which celebrated the 100th anniversary of opal mining in Australia.


“In September 2015 the South Australian Museum launched Opals, an exhibition that explored the 100 million year history of opal formation in South Australia as well as celebrating the centenary of the gemstone’s discovery in Coober Pedy.

The exhibition included a breathtaking opal display, revealing treasures from the South Australian Museum’s collection that demonstrate the beauty and variety of opals from South Australia as well as other parts of the country,” Brian Oldman, Director of South Australian Museum told The Peninsula.

“To celebrate the opening of the Australian Embassy in Doha, the Embassy and the South Australian Museum have worked together to transport highlights of the original exhibition to Qatar. This collection of gems and jewellery gives a taste of the original exhibition and introduces visitors to the colourful delight of Australia’s national gemstone,” he added.


The exhibition would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone to see some of the rarest Australian opals.

“For people unfamiliar with opals the exhibition will introduce them to the natural beauty of Australian opal. Visitors who are already familiar with opals will delight in the stunning beauty of the gemstones displayed,” he said.

The exhibition will demonstrate the diversity of naturally formed Australian opals. Each opal is unique and demonstrates different colour and structure depending on the specific environmental conditions present when it formed many millions of years ago. As well as the stones formed in natural crevices and voids, visitors will see gems that have resulted from the fossils of ancient creatures which have opalised in the Australian outback.

With a total value of A$4m, the nearly 70 pieces which will be on display are of great diversity in size and form.

The exhibition celebrates the beauty of Australian opals with a focus on the remarkable gems mined in South Australia.

Key highlights and true treasures from the South Australian Museum’s collection are the Virgin Rainbow and the Fire of Australia.


The Virgin Rainbow is an opalised belemnite considered an Australian National Treasure and undoubtedly the finest quality crystal opal ever unearthed. The Fire of Australia is the highest quality and most valuable piece of opal rough known to exist. “The Virgin Rainbow, worth over A$1m, is the finest crystal opal specimen ever unearthed, and was 100 million years in the making. It has only been on public display once before, and will provide visitors to the exhibition with an unmatched spectacle of colour and beauty,” he said.

Valued at nearly A$900,000, the Fire of Australia is considered the world’s finest piece of uncut opal unearthed 70 years ago.

The exhibition is just one instance of the South Australian Museum’s collections being recognised globally, and of the Museum furthering international understanding of Australia’s scientific, cultural and economic prosperity and prowess, according to Oldman.

The exhibition will run from tomorrow until June 15 at the Australian Embassy at Tornado Tower in Dafna.