“When I close my eyes, I see opals,” said Kelly, shaking his head.It seems he has a touch of opal fever.

Lightning Ridge and the surrounding areas are famous for its abundance of opals, and in particular the black opal, which can basically only be found here. For decades, people have visited, and never left. They were entranced by this fiery precious gem; one that constantly changes and flickers in the light.

While I appreciate the area and the gem (and in fact acquired a few for my own personal enjoyment whilst here), I didn’t quite understand the fever itself, until I saw Kelly come down with it.

Lucky, this is one fever that didn’t require a hospital, as it did in Hawaii and Thailand.There are a few ways you can mine for opal:

Own a claim.

A few thousand dollars, a few safety and environmental courses, and some heavy machinery later, and you have yourself a mineral claim, and the ability to go underground for opal. More on the opal mining process in a minute.

Go fossicking or “noodling”.

You accomplish this silly sounding task by going to the rubbish dumps, where miners have dumped truck after truck load of sandstone from their mines. Although miners have a pretty keen eye for opal, it is very easy to miss a chunk while chipping away at the sandstone underground. This is where the fossickers and noodlers can make a living if they work hard enough. A full-time fossicker in a heavily mined area about 60kms from Lightning Ridge can make an average income of $20,000. Some may say that’s pretty meager, while they will say that they’re outside, with nary a care in the world, and enjoying every day. Fossicking is also the most common way for a short-term visitor or tourist to try to get their hands on some opal.

Actually, the most COMMON way for the average tourist to mine for opal, is in the jewelry stores. In Lightning Ridge, you can mine through store after store and dealer after dealer looking for that perfect piece of opal to take home with you.


Continue reading on theprofessionalhobo.com

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  • Nora Dunn

    In 2006, Nora sold everything she owned in Canada (including a busy financial planning practice) to embrace her dreams of full-…

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