Australia is a land rich in minerals and is the world’s largest producer of opals. Wonderful and unusual stones can often be found at auctions, and whether you’re looking for rare pink diamonds, precious jade or opals, it’s a smart way to get an amazing price. Here’s a guide to some true Australian sparklers.
Australia’s iconic stone, precious opal is made of silica which has an iridescent play of colour. Intense colours, with lots of red and orange in a chequered “Harlequin” pattern increases an opal’s value. You can take a trip to the town of Coober Pedy and fossick for your own - but you’ll be lucky to beat the world record-breaking 17,000 carat Olympic Australis, dug up in 1956. If you’re buying opals in Australia, the easiest way to get a great price is to try a sale or auction, where experts can give a proper valuation and you can be certain you’re buying solid opal, not the cheaper doublet or triplet. Buying loose opals and other stones is also possible.
Pink diamonds are mined in the Kimberleys in Western Australia, and the cause of their beautiful pink hue remains a mystery. Usually the deeper the colour, the higher the value. Australian pink diamonds are very rare: for every million carats of rough diamonds mined only one carat of pink diamonds is suitable for sale. Supply is running out, so prices are expected to get even higher. Buying pink diamonds in an auction could be a smart investment as well
as a beautiful purchase.
Jade is actually two different minerals: jadeite and nephrite. Both are recognised as jade. It’s very popular in China as it’s considered lucky. Australia is a source of nephrite black jade, which glows a deep olive green when cut thin. Some of the highest quality black jade is mined in Cowell, South Australia. It’s important to buy jade from a reputable source with expert verification, as occasionally other minerals such as serpentine or quartz are sold as jade.
Sapphires and Rubies
Rubies and sapphires are different colours of corundum. Red corundum is called ruby, and although we think of sapphire as blue, all other varieties - pink, green, yellow and orange - are all called sapphires. The most valuable ruby colour is called blood-red or pigeon blood. Most rubies are found in New South Wales and sapphires in central Queensland. The world’s largest ruby - 8,500 carats - was carved into the Liberty Bell, but it was stolen in 2011 and has never been recovered.
Australian emeralds are mined in New South Wales and Western Australia. The most sought after are NSW’s famous Torrington emeralds, which feature a unique banded appearance, as there was only a tiny deposit. A kind of beryl, emeralds range from yellow green to blue green, and the darkest hues are the most valuable. Because synthetic emeralds are widespread, it’s critical to get any stone you buy properly authenticated. A reputable jeweller or Auction house will be able to do this for you.
South Sea Pearls
Australian south sea pearls are exceptionally rare and beautiful. The pristine waters off Kimberley in Western Australia are the only place in the world with commercial quantities of Pinctada Maxima, the oyster that makes them. They’re also among the largest natural pearls in the world, ranging from silvery white to deep gold, with hues of pink, blue or green, and have the best nacre or lustre of any pearl. A strand of south sea pearls could easily command $100,000 whereas freshwater pearls may be only a few hundred dollars. For some amazing bargains, try buying pearls at a jewellery auction, where new, antique and collectible pieces frequently come up for sale.
Buying opals in Australia, pink diamonds, precious jade, emeralds, rubies or pearls can be a beautiful and valuable investment. First State Auctions are specialists in fine jewellery as well as loose stones. Because lots come from private individuals and private collections, as well as jewellers selling off excess stock, deceased estates and police seizures, there’s a very wide range available often at a small fraction of retail prices. All our gemstones and other items for auction are examined and certified by gemmologists and diamond graders. You can bid in one of our regular weekly online auctions from the comfort of your own home.