Rough Opal Buying Guide for Opal Cutting Beginners- Australian Opal Cutters

What Type of Rough Opal is BEST for New Opal Cutters


Yes, buying rough opal can be risky, as you’ll probably get a heap of common potch mixed in with your parcel.  But it’s cheaper than ‘rubs’, and the chance that something nice might turn up. Although It is sort of like playing the lotto, people still come back for more as the excitement of unveiling the color that no-one else has ever seen, for the first time ever. Opal cutting is FUN and REWARDING.


Buying rough opal shouldn’t be hard, and generally isn’t, if you know what to ask for, and if the seller understands what you’re talking about, and what you want. When you decide to buy rough opal for your first opal cutting journey, there are a few things you should ask, and also a few things to look for. 



When you’re starting out, ask for a relatively inexpensive parcel that contains mostly opals that are easy to cut. You’ll generally get a parcel of light-opal, or semi-crystal opal containing a lot of blues and purples. This is a great place to start.

It’s the same with boulder opal, ask the seller for relatively inexpensive parcel of rough with some potential, or a parcel of ‘slabbed’ opals with some color, that will be easy to cut. You may get boulder ‘split’ type material, but more commonly, you’ll get conglomerate. Conglomerate opal is great, it contains many different patterns within one big stone, and you can generally saw out many nice ‘cutters’ from one big lump of rough.

Tips: Always buy ‘low-grade’ material to start with, until you get comfortable cutting Opals, and then start to ask for a ‘step-up in color’, or a ‘step-up in grade’, and this will get you into some nicer stuff.

When buying Lightning Ridge material, (from my experience), it’s always easier to obtain a parcel of seam opal from out at the Grawin / Glengarry / Sheepyards areas, and easier to cut opals out of these parcels when starting out. Mind you, there’s some very expensive and beautiful seam opal out there too, so don’t think I’m saying seam opal is cheap… I’m just saying that it’s easier to cut when starting out! Then when you’re ready for a bigger challenge, start getting into some Nobby material from the mining areas closer to Lightning Ridge, for example, the Coocoran field, or the ‘nobby fields’ as they’re generally referred to as.

As your technical cutting abilities improve, so will your opal buying terminology.

Most sellers will let you return a parcel (within a short time frame) if you’re not satisfied with it. This is only if you haven’t sawn it, cut it, or started to grind it down in any way! For obvious reasons, this would be extremely immoral. The opal industry is very small, so don’t ever try and rip anyone off, or do anything unconscionable, or you simply won’t last long, and you’ll need to find a new career, if that’s your intention.