Amateur miner - Precious black opal in Canada


I’ve just signed up to the website reaching out for an expert opinion on a claim in Canada, BC extracting what I believe (absolute no background in geology/gemology) to be the only source of precious black opal in our province.

Here are some recent finds we have dug out only a few weeks ago (October 2017)

I’m aware about how rare this stone is, but I really don’t have any source of information of how to pursue it. The claim was staked by my grandfather over 15 years ago, who unfortunately passed away not much longer after discovery. He wasn’t a geologist or anything of the sorts, but he dedicated his entire life to rockhounding and had incredible passion for it!

I’ve researched online a little amount and found a 30 page geological report of our claim which my grandfather had a professional assess it. The report is old, and it wasn’t until after it had been created that we found the black stones with color, but has definitely been a very descriptive and informative means of understanding about volcanic activity and other things for me. Perhaps I could release that to someone who is interested about the scientific standpoint of where we are finding our beautiful stones

Here is some information I took out of the geological report

Massive to columnar jointed basalt to andesite-basalt flows
High vesicular [elongate commonly aligned) to amygdaloidal units (20cm+ long)
precious opal occurs in a broad range of base colours including transparent, white, green,
orange and browns. Precious opals display pinfire, mosaic (harlequin) and flash play-of-colour with variable brightness. Colours often include red, green and some blue, local violet. (Opal shows full spectrum of white through to black)

In conclusion to this topic, I’d love to find an expert opinion from someone who knows more about opals as well as mining it. Perhaps someone is out there that can help me identify where it’s coming from? I’m 23 years old and starting at the bottom of the barrel for anything to do with mining. Currently looking into courses for gemology, and would love to learn about lapidary methods!

Thank you for your time

Edit -
Here is some information I can give you about the area

The opal that we have is forming on top of a small mountain. The host rock contents of what we’re mining is VERY hard. (volcanic bedrock) Think of the top of the bluff being a puzzle, as all of the columns of basalt are all twisted and matched in perfectly holding the next rock into it. Extracting a large piece of column can take sometimes hours of hard hammering while also strategically stripping away a piece of the puzzle that will make the next piece easier to move out and so on!

I haven’t seen opal mining coming from large slabs of rock, but I’ve really only watched the australian documentarys. What a difference it is from us to them. What they’re drilling into is sand, and definitely makes a guy jealous when watching them easily chisel into there drillings to create mines haha.

But what I like about the large basalt columns are the fascinating empty vesicles filled with crustaceans all over the place. I know nothing about it, but I believe that the vesicles have a big thing to do with the opal. Sometimes we find the vesicles that aren’t empty which are jampacked full of precious / common opal ranging from pure white through to pure black. It’s indescribably such a fantastic moment when you find one of these huge deposits which some are over 1000 carats large!

Hi @Bobyk

Congratulations on the find, first thing I have to ask is if your relatives stored the opal in water? If so then you may consider doing the same because until you determine the water content (%/mass) you are risking the stones cracking due to crazing and a cracked stone won’t be making much high end jewelry… In the US, maybe a day’s drive South there is opal that looks like yours and is renown for crazing.

If your opal is from wood/roots and such it may run the chance of being less stable than if it were lava opal… I can’t tell what your specimens are but they are gorgeous. If they are stable and have a low water%…maybe get a fence up!

Hi Shea, thank you for getting back to me!

From what I understand about the stability of our opal is that it is very prone to crazing. My grandfather had a means of protecting it but I don’t think it was very reliable, but I know many of the stones have survived through dehydration. From what I have read about this my idea of keeping it stable would be to store the stone in water immediately after it has been unearthed, and also in a dark area without much light. These then would be transported into other containers, add water & store for 6 months or perhaps a couple of years.

This precious opal started occuring less than a foot deep into the ground. Another thing I’ve heard is the deeper it’s found has helped in strengthening the stones aswell.

What I’ve been told from my father, is that crazing happens mostly in our crystal clear specimens. The darker black opal has seemed to hold together through time much better than its lighter form

Here are some pictures of stones my grandpa found that still belong to my grandma at this time and I think they’ve held together well. I’m not sure how old these pictures are, but I’m sure they were taken months / years after it had been hammer and chiseled out of the thick strong basalt columns we get them from.
As for a fence, I’m thankful to say the claim is on private property and we must go through a series of gates to get to it :joy:

Hopefully this gives you what you’re looking for and if not i’ll try to explain however I can

Hi Bobyk,
When extracting the opal, be careful and don’t blast it out with a hammer and chisel. The Ethiopians did this for years with the new Welo find and ruined millions in opal until they learned better… Less cracks=more $$. The first thing is to determine how stable the opal is; this will determine the price. I have been cutting opal for over 20yrs from deposits all over the world. You might have found a secure future for yourself and future generations. If I can help in any way, please direct your questions to Doug at topshelfopals at gmail dot com. Good luck!

Hi Bobyk
Perhaps you could send several samples, freshly mined and old cut stones, to the GIA for professional evaluation. They are arguably the peak body for gemstone identification and evaluation. They do not provide valuations in terms odd dollars though.

Hi Bobyk
Since your post is fresh I can only agree to the previous post. Get it evaluated first. If the opal is stable the price will be huge because it is black. Nice having a fence allready, not so great you are an amateur miner… Why? You’re main reason of concern are those who want to make quick money out of your mine and that’s where a fysical fence does not help.
So be aware you’ll be overrun with all sorts of posts of people who want to ‘help’ you.
Let a professional help you set up a plan on how to make things work and stick to that plan.
From my point of view it much resembles Tintenbar and Honduras opal as for it’s origin. In it’s appearance you will find resemblance between Mintabie Old Field and Nevada opal. Both first mentioned fields being Australian and having produced very high value black opal, Nevada and Honduras lesser value, but still nice opal!
Do read about those fields or, better, have a geologist inform you. Those guys know about opal formation. Have a specialized miner help you on how to extract it.
And as for me myself? Of course I would like to get my hands on it too. Your problem is whole the world does…

Erik, the Netherlands, opal enthousiast with some 15 years experience

I can’t thank you guys enough, this is the information I need! I’ve went through the Gia website and have found a lab where I live that can tell us when we get home from our little expedition. I have been learning quite a lot since posting this topic and we’re really starting to get the ball rolling with some new equipment and we’re getting a lot more opal out of the ground now :slight_smile:

Much appreciate your concern of other people trying to take advantage, my Dad knows a lot more about opal than I do and we have everything we need in terms of partnership but the beginning stages of trust are going to be an issue!

I’ll let you guys know about stability when we find out if anyone’s interested!

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Hi! I am an Alberta, B. C. and Ontario Canadian and I will be travelling through BC from Van Island to Edmonton several times. (moving). I am also retired and a gem cutter. May I purchase some of your opal for cutting on my way through? If it is stable enough I would be interested in lots more to cut and to resell if you like.
I have worked with unstable opal before and find that there isn’t much point in storing it in water as it will just crack when you dry it out in a piece of jewelery. Opticon will likely stabilise it but reduces the value, so I use it sparingly.
Your pictures indicate that there is stable material there so best to concentrate on that for now.
Email me at and let me know if you are interested.