Help identify my opal pattern, can’t find anything like it (Virgin Valley Black Fire Opal)

Hello all,

This is a piece of a limb cast I dug Oct. 1st in the Virgin Valley, Nevada. I have been scowering the internet for some time trying to find my play of color pattern in another opal, so far no luck.

The mine I dug this from is the Royal Peacock, well known for their peacock opal from conk wood. The oval/diamond shaped pits seen in their peacock opal resembles the general shape in the play of color in my limb cast. It looks as if my limb cast is the same material, just completely opalized to the point that my stone presents those patterns as its play of color. This is speculation on my part, going off samples of material in the same region.

The pattern in my play of color also looks very similar to the cross section of a kiwifruit. The fruit has wedges in its flesh that fan out from a central point much like my stone does.

Due to the peacock opal native to the VV region and the pattern being represented only in my play of color, I’m calling it peacock harlequin (does have elongated diamonds throughout) until someone can help me find an example of what I have…

So has anyone seen this pattern before and can anyone help me determine what I have? Here’s a video of a small piece of my opal

Hello Shea,
Here is a website where you can learn many things about opal. There are many pictures with various patterns and their names which I think that may help you determine your opal’s pattern.
Best Regards,
Here is the link:

Ribbon Pattern with metallic sheen :).

I wouldn’t call this harlequin because all the images of harlequin I’ve seen are multicolored all over. It is a diamond pattern of various colors, like the costume of Harlequin the Commedia dell’Arte character. If you look up “harlequin opal images” you will see multicolored diamonds all over the surface of the stone. What I see in your video is a stone that is green flash on the left side and part of the middle and right, with a few flashes of red and blue on the left. I’d tend to call this a broad flash opal in greens and blues. The lack of reds and oranges does lower the value, as reds and oranges are rarer than greens and blues. The questions would be how thick are the fire layers in the stone. While fire tends to be similar throughout the fire layers, it’s quite possible that other layers might have more of the other colors than the predominant green you see on most of this stone. It does appear to be a fairly large stone, so you possibly could cut areas out of it, such as at the top right as we see it, where there is as much red and blue as green.

Another issue with opal that is cut is the viewing angle of the fire. From what I can see, these broad flashes come on for several degrees of view and then switch off. This is why pinpoint fire and broken up flashes of color are generally more valuable, since the stone tends to show color from all angles rather than just from one angle. The cut on this stone is parallel to the layers of fire. This is common because it usually produces the largest stone. Layers are often rather thin. Fire when cut across the layers is usually better…better broken up and more sparkley from more angles. The problem is often that the fire layer is rather thin, limiting the size of a 100% fire stone. I’m not an opal expert, but this is what I can tell you from my experience examining and cutting opal. It is a dark body color, which ups the value considerably over white opal.

I can tell you that from the video that I would like to see the underside of the specimen. It looks like someone cut a flat at right angles to the face you show and that is probably what I would have done, to see what the layers look like. You could cut round sections of this log and there might be different fire in other spots…or not. Or you could cut parallel to the long axis of the log and likely your fire layers would look like the bottom surface…but possibly not> That’s what makes opal so challenging. That said, I have not seen a lot of opal logs, so someone familiar with them would know more about what the fire layers usually look like.

It’s a nice piece however you slice it (pun intended!). If you do cut it up I’d be interested in seeing what you end up with.

Hi @royjohn

Thank you for sharing your knowledge about opal!

Some recent news: I went to a regional gem show and found a man who will cut this particular stone and who has offered to share some of his lapidary knowledge with me.

He has a passion for opal. We are meeting on Tuesday 10/24! I’ll have video of this stone after it’s cut a bit and all polished up and sparkly very soon. I’ll be able to upload a video tonight in about 5 hours or so of the other face of the stone and in the mean time I would suggest checking out the other video on my channel of this stone. This piece is merely a chunk that flew off when I struck the larger piece squarely with my rock pick. A good bit was destroyed instantly but I was left with this piece which weighs 2.4g and the larger piece is at least 5x to 8x as much opal…If you look at my larger piece, you can see a pit in the bottom right and this chunk fits right into there. I estimate that with all of the clay and outer bark layer ground off, this would be a 1.8g to 2g chunk.

There is no fire layer in this type of wood opal, every bit of the black you see, and even the bark, is precious opal with play of color in it. 360 degrees of rainbow juice crammed into a rock. Those three tightly packed diamonds that flash on the face at :32seconds are literally on the face of the fracture on the nanometer scale, which is what we are looking at - a clean fracture with no work done to it. :slight_smile: It will hurt my heart to have to grind on it, for even the slivers I kept of this specimen flicker and flash in the light.

I suspect the view of the fire will be different looking at it from the round face (area under the outer bark) instead of the cross section. Unfortunately I can only do so much at the moment with a razor blade so we will have to see what my new friend can reveal with his lapidary skills. Which will be soon! We will also be able to get an idea of its pattern. Thanks for commenting!


Here’s the backside + an overall look + some salad for your health


Guess I would call it a rolling flash. Barrie O’Leary wrote a book some years back in which he identified numerous patterns including not less than a dozen types of harlequin. Though most opal experts disparage O’Leary you might want to take a look.


P.S. Ya say you want to see a harlequin? Well here ya go pilgrim. Sourced for a client some years back now on display at the Yale Peabody Museum, New Haven. Also in my book

I would call it a Directional, Green, Broad Flash (the most prominent play of color effect in this specimen).

Hello everyone and thank you for your input!!! I really appreciate the time you took out of your day to help!

Some news:
Today I was able to speak to my associate who’s going to be cutting this opal and so far, one month into the stabilization process there have been no cracks or crazing. It will take 6-12 months to stabilize this opal with the method my associate has spent years perfecting and has claimed to have achieved a 50% success rate with, on Virgin Valley opal. Which is impressive. Most people wouldn’t dare take these risks with their nicest VV specimens but I am and my associate is enough of a wildcat to have worked his method up to 50%. It takes failure and success to accumulate the knowledge and skill this man has and sometimes those failures are quite expensive and just too much for most to stomach. His method has so far lasted 6 years on the longest pieces of opal jewelry for his clients, with no issues of crazing or cracking. It’s going to be a while before the specimens I gave him to cut will ever be touched to a wheel but I will certainly update this thread when there’s info to report. I speculate that this small piece as shown here is ~10ct without the dirt (2.3g total with the dirt) and will be the perfect way of testing my material. If this all works out I have the larger piece of this specimen that could yield something truly remarkable. I’d say that piece approaches 50ct in the rough. I have named it “The Black Hole”, check it out on my YT channel. I also gave my associate about 40-50g of semi-black opal to cut on that was excavated about a foot away from the opal shown here and that is all one piece about the size of your palm with a single wood inclusion in the center. It’s about 3 inches thick. I’d say that material is N4 body tone and shows lots of green and red play of color. It is said that 95% of the material coming out of the VV can’t be made into jewelry, due to the perils of stabilizing the material, so here goes beating the odds again! You would think it was long odds just to find it…HERE’S PUTTING EVERYTHING ON BLACK!!!