For the first time in decades, one of the world’s most beautiful uncut opal stones has been taken out of its dusty safe and put on display for the public to gaze at.
The so-called “Fire of Australia”, a 998-gram (35.2-ounce) uncut opal, has joined the South Australian Museum’s collection, thanks to the help of a private donor and the Federal Government’s National Cultural Heritage Account.
It’s described as the “finest uncut opal in existence” and is valued at a hefty $900,000 Australian dollars ($681,480). You’ll be able to see it for yourself in the front foyer of the South Australian Museum until February 28, 2017.
“90 percent of the world’s most precious opals are found in South Australia,” Brian Oldman, director of the South Australian Museum, said in a statement. “Opal of this quality can only be created under certain climate conditions... When our state’s inland sea evaporated millions of years ago, it provided a unique silica-rich environment for the creation of precious opal. It is these exceptional conditions that created the Fire of Australia.”
The Fire of Australia was dug up using a pick and shovel by a miner called Walter Bartram at Eight Mile field in Coober Pedy, South Australia, in 1946. Since then, it has remained an heirloom in the family.
His son, Alan Bartram, said: “After loaning the Fire of Australia to the South Australian Museum for its Opals exhibition, we made the decision to place this family heirloom in safe hands. We’ve been long-term supporters of the South Australian Museum and it seems fitting that it should be passed onto the people of South Australia to enjoy.”
This is actually not the largest or the most valuable opal ever discovered. That honor goes to the "Olympic Australis", which weighs around 3,450 grams (121.7 ounces) and is valued at a dazzling AUS $2,500,000 (US $1,892,775).