FAQ: What is a white opal? What colour are white opals? Where are white opals mined? What is the value of a white opal?
Also known as ‘milk’ or ‘milky’ opals, Australian white opals are distinguished by their pale white or light body tone, indicated in the below chart under “light opal”. As with any kind of opal, white opals can display any colour of the spectrum in a beautiful play of colour.
White opals are much more plentiful and common than other kinds of opal like black opal and boulder opal. Often white opals will have white potch (colourless opal) left on the back of the stone, however sometimes the entire stone will consist of colourful opal.
Because of their pale body tone, white opals generally have less vibrant colour than boulder opals and black opals. They do not have the advantage of having a dark or black background which enhances the stone and makes the opal colour stand out.
Examples of White Opal
By comparison, white opals are the least valuable form of opal. This is partially due to the fact that they are the most common form of opal, but also due to the lack of darkness in the stone which leads to the more vibrant colour in boulder opals and black opals. Opals with a very white body tone also tend to have very pale colour. However, good quality white opal can be incredibly beautiful, and may fetch prices up to AUD $200 per carat. There are many factors including brightness and pattern which determine the overal value of opal. Read more in our article on the value of opal.
A Word on Crystal Opal
Crystal opal refers to any kind of opal which is partially or fully transparent or translucent. However, there is a fine line between white opal and crystal opal. Sometimes there is only a mild or medium translucence which may lead to the opal being classified as either a white opal or a crystal opal, or even a “white crystal opal”. Even some of the photos in the above examples are partially translucent and could be classified as white crystal opals.
When a white opal is partially translucent, it often enhances the clarity and vibrancy of the colour, and thus the value of the stone. Therefore a white opal which has some of the properties of a crystal opal will often have a higher value. More information about crystal opals is available in our crystal opal article.