Glengarry Opal Field About 45 km from Lightning Ridge there is another extensive opal mining area where mining is still being carried out today. Fields have been established at Glengarry, Grawin, Sheepyard Flat, Carters Rush and Mulga Rush. These fields are all relatively close together and...

Andamooka Rainbow Matrix Opal is fast becoming popular with those who can't afford a "Real Opal". Originally it was called "concrete" because that was what it looked like although you could see small specks of opal in amongst the concrete like grains. It is a porous quartzite host rock in which opal has been deposited amongst the quartz grains. In its raw state you can hardly see the opal and for this reason the early miners discarded it as valueless. If you hunt around the mullock heaps or even on the roadsides in Andamooka you still have a chance of picking up  a piece. A photo of a typical piece of concrete is shown below.

Opal cutting using flat lap machines has many advantages. For many years I had cut and polished opal using the conventional grinding wheels. I started on a two wheel carborundum grinder as that was all I could afford. By being very careful and ensuring I used the full width of the wheel this produced reasonable results. I was then lucky to purchase a four diamond wheel grinding machine together with a home made polishing disc run off an old washing machine motor. I still use both of these items of equipment today and they work well. Photos of these two pieces of equipment are shown below.

Cooper Pedy has just celebrated 100 years since it was founded as an opal field. Opal was found at what is now called  Coober Pedy  by 14 year old Willie Hutchison. He had been out prospecting for gold with his father and two other prospectors in January 2014. His father asked him to stay in camp while he and his two companions went looking for water. Willie disobeyed and set off on his own and as well as finding water he found opal and this soon led to the establishment of the Coober Pedy opal field. Read more about this in my post called Coober Pedy Opal Field Original discovery of opal.

Lightning Ridge Opal Field 2014

As with many of our trips to the opal fields we did not really intend to go there. We set off to escape Melbourne's winter with our destination as Wooli, near Grafton, on the New South Wales coast. We took the kayaks and the fishing equipment and actually settled in for three weeks of active recreation. Unfortunately the weather turned and we were faced with heavy rain and strong winds which affected the fishing and restricted the kayaking to some extent. We stoically sat it out for the three weeks during which we had a few day trips to Ballina and Coffs Harbour.  At Coffs Harbour we visited the Opal Shop located about 500 metres north of the Big Banana on the Pacific Highway. We only dropped in for a visit because the weather was bad and we had to fill in a bit of time. There was a lovely display of opal there and we had a chance to talk to the owner about opal. She and her husband had a mine at Lightning Ridge some time back and had spent many years mining for opal. There were photographs of their mine in the shop and she was very informative. It is well worth a visit.

Lightning Ridge Opal Field

There are many interesting things to see and people to meet at Lightning Ridge and indeed at any of the opal fields. These towns are unique and have attracted a great diversity of characters. I don't think we have visited any of the  opal towns without meeting people with a different outlook on life. People obviously move to these places to escape the mundanity of life in the cities. Certainly out here you can pursue any lifestyle you want. You can build a castle, you can become a recluse, you can paint, build sculptures, write poetry or even mine for opal. It is all here to inspire you.