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Australia's National Gemstone:

On the 28th of July 1993, the opal was proclaimed as Australia�s national gemstone. This precious gem is looked upon as the fire of the desert - a mesmerising display of all the colours of the rainbow. An old Aboriginal legend tells of the creation of opal; a beautiful rainbow fell to earth and created the bright colours of the opal. Australian opal: Australia is the world leader when it comes to opals. It is the greatest producer of precious opal. In fact, over 95% of the world�s opal is produced from the rugged outback regions of Australia. The main mining locations runs through the Great Artesian Basin which covers a vast amount of Australia�s inland country. There are several opal locations, namely Lightning Ridge, Cooper Pedy, White Cliffs, Andamooka, Mintabie and towns in the central and western parts of Queensland.

1. Lightning Ridge: As you drive into the town of Lightning Ridge, you will read a sign "Welcome to Lightning Ridge, population ?� With so many people coming and going, trying their luck in the mining game, it would be impossible to know the exact population. Situated 770 Km north west of Sydney, Lightning Ridge is the home of the Black Opal, the town has been mining since the 1880�s and has more than earned the name of producing gem quality black opal from then on in.

2. Queensland Boulder: Seams of gem opal which is attached naturally to the parent rock, made of ironstone is known as Boulder opal. Boulder opal is mined throughout several quiet towns of outback Queensland, Australia. Yowah, Eromanga, Quilpie and Opalton to name a few.

3. Coober Pedy: Coober Pedy is the world's largest producer of opal. The first discovery of opal was in 1915 and it wasn�t until 1960 that Coober Pedy became a town, attracting residents from around the world in search of opals. Coober Pedy has one of the most inhospitable climates in Australia, because of this; the town is constructed mostly below ground to avoid the daytime heat.

4. White Cliffs: Located in NSW, Australia. Action began a White Cliffs in 1884. It gradually became know to gem seekers whom finally set�up a small settlement surrounded by mines in 1890. The town hit its peak in mining in 1902 and continued to producing some spectacular opals, including many fossilized opals, until around 1914. At this time, the opal supply was becoming scarce. This combined with the extremely harsh climate and the start of the First World War, the township declined back to a population of around 200. Today there is still around 200 people living there, the population increases in the winter as the keen fossicker moves in to find their fortune.

5. Andamooka and Mintabie: Both located in South Australia. These mining towns have produced some incredible opals over the years. Mintabie starting mining in 1921, Andamooka in 1930, they both continual to mine to the present day.