Skip to Content

The 10 Most Expensive Opals in the World and Why

The 10 Most Expensive Opals in the World and Why

Opals are one of the most expensive birthstones, and they’re also one of the most colorful. After all, while some jewels might be two-toned or feature a gradient of hues, opals often reflect a dazzling rainbow of light. But what is the most expensive opal, and why is it so pricey?

The most expensive opal in the world is The Fire Queen, also known as The Flame Queen Opal. John D. Rockefeller purchased this opal in 1949 for an astounding £75,000. That might not seem like much, but that price translates to about $3,620,700 today when considering inflation and currency changes!

Typically, the largest opals with the rarest colors tend to fetch the highest prices. But if you’re looking to bring one of these top-quality gems home, be warned—some of these opals are so rare and valuable that they’re essentially priceless.

Here are the top 10 most expensive opals in the world:

10. The Black Prince – $169,400

photo source: Bonhams

The Black Prince is a smooth, oval-shaped black opal gem from one of the world’s richest and most celebrated opal mining spots, Lightning Ridge, New South Wales.

It was unearthed in 1915, more than a century ago. As such, The Black Prince is one of the first black opals ever mined in Australia.

This jewel is comparatively tiny, weighing only about 60 carats. But it’s also one of the priciest opals due to its historical significance and rainbow or reflective hues.

It’s widely reported that this gemstone was stolen in 1991. It and another opal purportedly disappeared from Forest Lawn Memorial Park, a cemetery near Los Angeles.

However, The Black Prince Opal sold at a Bonham’s auction in 2012, so it wasn’t lost for too long. This opal fetched $134,500 at auction.

Adjusted for inflation, that would be about $169,400. You could buy one of the world’s most expensive couches at that price!

Why It’s Expensive

This opal is costly because of its age, historical significance, and natural beauty. It’s one of the first black opals ever mined from the Lightning Ridge area, and its play of color is far superior to other black opals of its size.

9. Aurora Australis – $724,000

photo source: Altmann Cherny

The Black Prince isn’t the only piece of black opal featuring a jaw-dropping price tag. For example, Aurora Australis, one of the priciest bits of black opal in the world, is more than four times as expensive as the infamous Black Prince Opal.

It’s about three inches long and almost two inches wide, with a polished oval face that reveals an eye-catching array of blues, reds, yellows, and greens. It’s valued at 1,000,000 AUD, which is about $724,000. Still, you might be wondering, “Why is the Aurora Australis Opal so much pricier?”

Why It’s Expensive

This opal weighs three times as much as The Black Prince. That’s one of the primary reasons why it costs more.

However, the Aurora Australis is one of the largest opals unearthed at Lightning Ridge. It has a beautiful color pattern and a notable history, making it more desirable than today’s smaller, often less colorful black opals.

8. Fire of Australia – $652,000

photo source: ABC News

The Fire of Australia is a massive uncut opal weighing almost 5,000 carats! It has a primarily gray-white exterior, with rainbow-colored speckles showing on most sides.

This huge hunk of opal comes from Coober Pedy, an area that would become known as the opal capital of the world. It was unearthed in the late 1940s and remains virtually untouched.

Though the Fire of Australia spent most of its life as part of Walter Bartram’s at-home opal collection, it now lives in the South Australian Museum. This opal is valued at about 900,000 AUD, or about $652,000.

Why It’s Expensive

The primary reason why the Fire of Australia is expensive is its size. The opal is one of the largest ever pulled from the Coober Pedy mines, weighing almost one kilogram.

The story behind this gemstone’s excavation and subsequent time with the Bartram family also add to its charm and overall value. Still, the Fire of Australia is a national gem, quite literally! It’s unlikely that the museum will be willing to part with it anytime soon.

7. Virgin Rainbow – $1,000,000+

photo source: Altmann Cherny

The Virgin Rainbow is one of the most hypnotizing opals on the planet. This opal sparkles when exposed to light, shimmering a rainbow of different colors.

However, the true magic begins when you place the Virgin Rainbow in a low-light environment. This 11-inch polished piece of opal begins to glow when placed in dark areas, its rainbow surfaces shining from within.

But if you’re thinking of making this opal a new acquisition, you may want to think again. Unfortunately, the Virgin Rainbow isn’t for sale, and you can only see it up-close by visiting the South Australian Museum.

That said, if you’re friendly with the museum curators and are willing to spend $1 million or more, you might be able to work something out.

Why It’s Expensive

It’s not challenging to understand why the Virgin Rainbow Opal is so expensive.

It’s one of the longest pieces of polished Australian opal, has unique characteristics (like glowing in dark environments), and comes from one of Australia’s most notorious opal mining areas, Coober Pedy.

As a result, this piece of opal gets its whopping value from its beauty, rarity, and reputation.

6. The Queen’s Opal – $1,200,000+

photo source: Altmann Cherny

The Queen’s Opal, also called The Andamooka Opal, is a magnificent 200-carat off-white opal with an astounding brilliance and light play. It sits in a palladium frame, forming a royal necklace explicitly designed for Queen Elizabeth II.

The precise value of this opal is hard to estimate, as it’s a jewelry piece and a historically significant coronation gift. That said, the lowest possible estimation for The Queen’s Opal (and its matching earrings) starts at $1.2 million.

Why It’s Expensive

The Queen’s Opal is expensive because it’s massive, luminous, and the property of an internationally-recognized monarch!

Though it’s not for sale, the gemstone alone has an estimated base of about $1 million. Consequently, the actual value of this opal necklace is likely much higher.

5. Halley’s Comet – $1,711,300

photo source: Altmann Cherny

Though the name of this opal might have you believe it arrived from outer space, the Halley’s Comet Opal is so-called because it was discovered when the infamous comet was passing over Australia in 1986.

But this black opal nobby (an opal that looks like a lump) does look out of the world. This lumpy opal has gray and white ends that look like miniature mountains and swirls of blue and green that wrap around its middle.

It almost looks like a tiny planet! However, compared to other opals, the Halley’s Comet Opal is quite large, weighing more than 1980 carats. It was valued at $1.6 million in 2006, which is more than $1,700,000 today.

Why It’s Expensive

The Halley’s Comet Opal is a massive uncut black opal featuring a unique color pattern and an interesting origin story.

These factors (size, coloration, and background) are responsible for this opal’s hefty price tag of more than $1,700,000. Still, you could buy one of the world’s most expensive mattresses for that price!

4. Pride of Australia – $1,978,200

photo source: Altmann Cherny

The Pride of Australia doesn’t get its name randomly. It was showcased for a time as Australia’s Greatest Opal, earning its name.

This opal featured an explosion of colors and was roughly shaped like the Australian continent. It weighed in at 225 carats, making it heavier than many other opals discovered at Lightning Ridge.

Ernie Sherman was the first to purchase the stone, way back in 1920. This opal dealer would make several other notable purchases from Australian opal miners, including a far pricier opal located a little further down this list.

Why It’s Expensive

This opal disappeared from Forest Lawn Memorial Park, just like The Black Prince. However, there’s no sign of the Pride of Australia yet.

Still, when this gem switched hands in the 1950s, the price was somewhere between £50,000 and £150,000. That’s approximately $1,978,200 to $5,934,700 accounting for inflation and currency conversions.

This opal’s major historical significance and distinctly bold coloration helped make it one of the world’s most expensive opals. Hopefully, it won’t remain missing forever.

3. Olympic Australis – $3,236,700

photo source: Altmann Cherny

You might not believe that the Olympic Australis is an opal when you first look at it. After all, most gem-quality opals are cut and polished, showing a glittering array of colors. But this enormous opal looks far more like a crushed rock than a priceless jewel.

Still, the true beauty of this opal lies beneath its somewhat plain-looking surface. You can spy the sparkling opal inside via the large cracks in the side of this gem, and the stone that initially looks white soon sparkles with color.

From the late 1950s until the early 2000s, the Olympic Australis was the largest opal in the world. However, the Virgin Rainbow and Americus Australis would eventually take this title.

This gigantic opal is currently owned by Altman & Cherney, Australian opal specialists operating in Sydney. The business paid about 2.5 million AUD for the Olympic Australis in 1997, or more than $3.2 million today.

Why It’s Expensive

The primary reason why this opal is so expensive is its massive size. It’s slightly larger than the polished, cylindrical Virgin Rainbow Opal, with a length of 11 inches and a height of about 4.5 inches.

Though it isn’t cut and polished, the Olympic Australis Opal is full of potential, causing the estimated worth of this opal to rise ever higher as time goes on.

2. The Flame Queen – $3,489,100

photo source: Wikipedia

The Flame Queen is one of the most easily recognizable and iconic opals in the world. It’s also one of the first black opals ever discovered in Australia, making it historically significant.

The best way to describe this magnificent opal is to say it resembles an eye. The center, either a vibrant red or canary yellow depending on the lighting, acts as a large pupil—the surrounding circle of darker stone glimmers green and blue.

Like many other of the world’s priciest opals, this stone has a unique origin story. It was discovered during the 1910s by three miners who had nearly given up on digging out an abandoned opal shaft. By pure chance, one of the miners revealed this stone while climbing the sides of the mining shaft!

The miners then sold the rough gem for less than £100 to Ernie Sherman, the same opal dealer who purchased the Pride of Australia Opal. Not long after that, Sherman sold the opal to Kelsey I. Newman, a British man who collected opals. It would stay as part of this private collection until the 1970s.

The Flame Queen was auctioned for $1 million in 1980. Due to inflation, that would be about $3.4 million today!

However, this opal once again saw the inside of an auction house in 2020. It sold at a Christie’s auction for a much less impressive $87,500.

Why It’s Expensive

Opals are prized gemstones, and their precious quality naturally makes them more expensive than other types of ordinary stone. However, this opal’s remarkable price stems from its historical significance, unique appearance, and considerable size.

1. The Fire Queen – $3,620,700

photo source: Altmann Cherny

The most expensive opal in the world is The Fire Queen, which is often confused with The Flame Queen (likely due to their similar names). Sadly, not much is known about this gemstone’s whereabouts and coloration, as it entered the infamous Rockefeller Collection back in 1949.

Still, there are a few things we know about The Fire Queen. For example, it was discovered in 1906 by Charlie Dunstan.

This opal comes from New South Wales, Australia, and it’s one of the most enormous intact opal jewels in the world, weighing in at about 900 carats. But the legend surrounding this opal might be even larger than the gem itself!

Rumor has it that Dunstan initially sold this colorful jewel for only about £100, which would have been about $300 (at the time). Accounting for inflation, that would be more than $8,000 today! Still, it was only a fraction of the opal’s total value.

Within four years of mining The Fire Queen, Dunstan would pass away, apparently due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. However, the circumstances of his death were suspicious.

The Fire Queen also changed owners several times after Dunstan sold it, leading to the opal’s legendary reputation of bringing bad luck to its buyers. Fortunately, this seeming trend of poor luck seemed to change by the 1920s, when the Chicago Historical Society purchased and exhibited the gem.

The gem then transitioned into the hands of the Chicago History Museum in the 1930s and 1940s. Finally, in 1949, John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men in United States history, purchased The Fire Queen Opal and added it to his private collection.

Rockefeller paid £75,000 for the gemstone. That price would be about $3.6 million today when accounting for inflation and currency fluctuations.

Sadly, it’s unknown whether the Rockefeller family still has possession of The Fire Queen. After all, more than a thousand items belonging to the family’s private collection were auctioned away by Christie’s in 2018.

Why It’s Expensive

There are quite a few reasons why The Fire Queen is the most expensive opal. Firstly, it’s far larger than the average opal, weighing approximately 900 carats.

Secondly, this is one of the most legendary opals in the world, with a unique origin story and history. The fact that it’s spent most of its unearthed life within the Rockefeller Collection also distinguishes it from similar large opals.

In short, The Fire Queen is a one-of-a-kind stone due to its size and history of ownership. These factors have helped make it the most valuable opal on the planet.

What Is the Most Expensive Opal Color?

Black opals that show a rainbow of color are often more expensive than other types of opals. However, red opals that are equally luminous and colorful are also pricey.

The primary reason these opals are costlier than other types is their rarity. Besides, black opals reflect colors better than other types of opals, allowing them to express a better play of light than white or yellow opals.

These remarkable gemstones have also seen a recent boost in popularity due to increased media presence. For example, the 2019 film Uncut Gems heavily features a black opal, drawing public attention to the rare jewel and making it more desirable.

What Qualities Make Opals Expensive?

Generally, the priciest opals are large, brilliant, and uniquely colored. For example, the Virgin Rainbow Opal appears almost white or translucent under harsh lighting but becomes a gorgeous rainbow of sparkling hues when exposed to low light conditions.

Additionally, this gem is nearly a foot long (11 inches), making it one of the largest polished opals in the world. These qualities contribute to the Virgin Rainbow’s hefty $1 million value.

Unpolished opals are often worth slightly less. But Americus Australis, one of the largest opal gems ever discovered, sold for more than $140,000 at an auction in 2022. Consequently, gem size is one of the most significant factors influencing an opal’s final price.

What Is the Most Expensive Opal?

The most expensive opal is The Fire Queen, an elusive gem purchased by John D. Rockefeller back in 1949. It’s uncertain whether this gem has remained part of the Rockefeller Collection, as Christie’s sold about 1,500 items that once belonged to this collection at an auction in 2018.

The Flame Queen Opal is nearly just as mysterious. It has traded hands multiple times. Christie’s sold this gem to an undisclosed buyer for only $87,000 in 2020, though previous owners spent upwards of $1 million on this unique opal.

If you enjoy this ranking, check out these related articles today!