Extraordinary things are newsworthy; special. Such is the case with The Fire of Australia, the world’s finest uncut opal, which has finally gone on public display since its discovery, more than 6 decades ago.
The Fire of Australia is not the typical opal you see inset in the more common Melbourne engagement rings you can find on the internet. It is, of course, uncut and unpolished, but even still, it is valued at more than $675,000, and holds the high honour of being the highest-grade opal in the world. Whilst it isn’t the most valuable opal in existence, being edged out by another Australian owned gemstone; the Olympic Australis, which clocks in at 17,000 carats, and 3.45 kilograms with an estimated worth of $1.9 million, The Fire of Australia is still laudable in its own right.
The uncut opal is around the size of a softball, meaning it is close to 12 by 3.8 inches in size, it is described by the South Australian Museum director; Brian Oldman, as showing all the colours of the spectrum, which emphasizes the rarity of such a specimen. Additionally, according to Oldman, the stone shines with a notable red colour, an indicator of high value in an opal.
The gem was discovered by miner Walter Bartram at the Eight Mile opal field, located in the South Australian town of Coober Pedy; a town quite well known for its opals. The miner Bartram and his family recognized the value of such a stone, and decided to hold onto it for the future. Unusually for an opal, which are usually cut up then polished, the Bartram family polished two sides of The Fire of Australia, a sign, according to the museum director, that the family recognized the true value of the piece. Now, Bartram’s son, Alan stated that the family has decided that the opal, discovered in South Australia, should be enjoyed by the South Australian people.
The gemstone will be in display in the museum’s foyer until the end of February, before being placed alongside the museum’s extensive permanent collection.
Perhaps those Australian jewelleries, such as those Melbourne engagement rings, were inset with opals found in the same area as the Fire. If so, they are all a treasure, not merely for their value, but for what they represent.