German geologist Johannes Menge made the first discovery of common opals in Australia near Angaston (SA) in 1849.Both Queensland's Boulder opal field and Lightning Ridge attracted miners in the 1880s. The name given to opal is derived from the ancient Greek and Latin languages, the Greek Opallio and the Latin Opalo, which mean “to perceive a change of color”. The first known opal relics were found in a cave in Kenya. Geologists believe that these opals originated in Ethiopia around 4000 BC.
Centuries later, it is surprising that it was only in 1990 that miners and consumers rediscovered Ethiopian opals again. Like many gemstones, opals were used for jewelry and amulets typically combined with other gemstones. Just like today, opals show beauty, status and wealth, a fashion trend that hasn't changed for centuries. Queensland's vast area of opal fields, which extended over 1,000 km, was Boulder's main supplier of opal with its characteristic source of ironstone.
Queensland rock opal fields occupy the largest or geographically dispersed opal deposits in the whole of western Queensland. Australian opal mines became the main and most respected producers of opal, largely due to the variety and quality of the opal they produced. Most modern sources agree that the discovery of opal in Australia should be attributed to a German geologist Johannes Menge, who discovered the precious mineral in 1849 near the small town of Angaston, SA (approximately 70 km from Adelaide). The area ranges from the opal district of Yowah, near the New South Wales border and 70 kilometers west of Cunnamulla (about 1250 kilometers west of Brisbane), to north of Winton, in central-west Queensland, 180 kilometers northwest of Longreach or 900 kilometers west of Rockhampton.
Tullie Wollaston died in 1931 and is considered the father of the Australian opal industry, which today accounts for 95% of the world market. Since then, for Aboriginal people, when a rainbow appears, it is a sign that someone had committed a crime against tribal laws and the tears of opal fell in pain. About 400 km north of Andamooka is Coober Pedy, which extracts most of the world's vein opal from a 50 km long opal field. In South Australia, on the northwest shore of Lake Torrens, sewing opal was discovered in 1935 in Andamooka and, in the 1960s, its population peaked at 3000 inhabitants.
The largest percentage still comes from the 70 opal fields around Coober Pedy, the opal capital of the world. Australia's main opal mining areas include White Cliffs, Lightning Ridge, Grawin, Coober Pedy, Andamooka, Mintable, Lambia and the Queensland opal fields. Mexican opals are sometimes cut into their rhyolitic host material if it is hard enough to allow cutting and polishing. However, opals are unique in that they show a rainbow-like screen due to their intrinsic microstructure that diffracts white light into all colors of the spectrum.
Eventually, as a desperate act of escaping its advances, it became rainbow-colored opal.