How the “most beautiful opal in the world” was found in an old mineshaft
This opal, worth over a million dollars, which catches all the light around it and sends it back to onlooking eyes in a blazing rainbow, is a Belemnite “pipe” that was once a kind of cuttlefish skeleton, and was found in 2007 by one John Dunstand, who had been searching and mining for opals for more than half a century in the deserts of Coober Pedy, Australia. He was searching in an old mineshaft in that area with an excavator, when he noticed the colors of the Rainbow Opal, half still burried in the sandstone around it.
“It showed this beautiful colour on the tip, but it was still in this hard lump of sandstone,” John recounted. “So we cleaned it off and we could see it was a nice piece, but we didn’t know if it was solid, because a lot of time they’ve got sand in them or intrusions. There was a thick skin on it, like a rusty band around it, so we cleaned that off, and every time we touched it some more colour would come out. It was a true gemstone. I knew it was one of the best ever. You’ll never see another piece like that one, it’s so special. That opal actually glows in the dark – the darker the light, the more colour comes out of it, it’s unbelievable. I’ve done a lot of cutting and polishing [of opals], I’ve been doing it for 50 years, but when you compare it to the other pieces that claim to be the best ever, this one just killed it.”
The “Virgin Rainbow opal” is currently on display in the South Australian Museum opal exhibition in Adelaide, and the photo is by South Australian Museum. The stone is currently up for auction.