The Rare and Precious “Patterns” Within a Rainbow Opal Gemstone

Row of opal patternsRainbows, as a concept, are awe-inspiring phenomena that hold a timeless and iconic place in human history and imagination. They transcend geographical boundaries and cultural differences, serving as a universal spectacle celebrated throughout the ages. Rainbows grace the sky with their radiant presence thanks to the harmonious interplay of water, air, and sunlight. This celestial collaboration splits light into the vivid spectrum of colours that we admire in the graceful arch of a rainbow. What's truly remarkable about Australian opal is that it allows you to wear a piece of jewellery that literally captures a real rainbow – because that's precisely what opal is! What sets opal colours apart is their enchanting display of vivid iridescence, an ever-changing kaleidoscope of hues that dances with your every movement. This captivating effect, known as opalescence, arises from the delicate interplay of internal structures and light.

Gem opal jewellery is currently experiencing an astounding surge in popularity. Opal-adorned rings, pendants, earrings, and bracelets are treasured for their rarity, authenticity, natural origin, and unparalleled uniqueness. The allure of this individuality is a central attraction of Australian opal jewellery.

In exceedingly rare instances, these same water molecules find their way into the earth's soil, bonding with naturally occurring silica. This extraordinary fusion gives rise to a unique and exceptionally rare opal, sometimes even featuring distinct "named" patterns. These gemstones have enjoyed renown for generations, adorning jewellery pieces like pendants and earning a revered status as October's birthstone. Opals are truly intriguing gemstones, as their formation is a result of almost miraculous chance. Hydrated silica, with up to 20% water trapped inside, forms a complex internal structure that diffracts light in a manner dependent on its past formation angles. Depending on the opal's history, different patterns and colours come to life. This phenomenon represents the sole instance on Earth where the creation of a rainbow is replicated within a gemstone. In contrast, other gemstones rely on faceting or treatment processes to stabilise or artificially recreate rainbow colours.

Opal patterns that can be distinctly identified can seem to "shift" or "move" in real-time, contingent upon how light interacts with the stone and how you manipulate it to reveal various angles.

When crafting opal pendants, earrings, and rings, meticulous attention is given to the presentation of colours and patterns, known as the "orientation" of the gemstone. In opal earrings, simplicity often takes precedence, allowing the stone's natural beauty to shine. In contrast, opal pendants may involve more intricate considerations, especially when larger stones are used. Different angles of the same stone can yield vastly different displays of brilliance. In fact, a rolling flash pattern might be concealed from one angle but reveal its incredible colours when viewed from another.

Opal rainbows exhibit a diverse array of "named" patterns, a testament to the myriad recognisable shapes and hue structures that have emerged over the years. Each opal jewellery piece is a unique canvas upon which these captivating rainbows are showcased, making it a one-of-a-kind expression of nature's artistry. Opal colours stand as a testament to the breathtaking beauty that nature can bestow. Every opal gem emerges as a singular masterpiece, showcasing its own exclusive array of colours and fiery brilliance, rendering it an unparalleled treasure worth cherishing.

Certainly, the world of opals is as diverse and untamed as the gemstones themselves. This is where the term 'Mixed Pattern' comes into play. As the name implies, this type of opal exhibits colours forming in patterns that resemble a combination of the patterns mentioned earlier. It's quite common to encounter opals displaying a mix of various patterns, as these labels are human-made and have evolved over thousands of years of admiring these precious gems.

In the world of opals, size often matters, with larger patterns being more highly prized than smaller ones. For instance, the 'Harlequin' pattern commands the highest value, while 'Pinfire' is considered a more common pattern. These descriptions may vary in terminology; for instance, 'Broadflash' might be referred to as the 'Peacock' pattern, and the 'Cat's Eye' effect is often known as 'Rolling Flash' in the Opal trade. The vibrancy of a pattern is another factor influencing value, with vivid and dynamic patterns being more sought after. A lively opal boasts a depth and intensity of colour and pattern. While every Opal has a unique pattern, there are twelve categories of patterns that all Opals fit within explained in this video click here:

While each opal possesses a unique pattern, they generally fall into twelve broad categories of patterns. These patterns can exhibit variations and frequently blend or "morph" into a multitude of varieties, making clear and distinct examples of "named" patterns exceptionally rare and valuable (as shown in the chart below).

Chart displaying a range of opal stone patterns


Some patterns are incredibly rare and nearly irreplaceable, such as the "Chinese Writing Pattern" seen in this Black Opal Engagement ring. This is a collector's item, a museum-quality specimen showcasing the rarity of Chinese writing patterns in black opal. This rarity is primarily due to the geological conditions required for opal formation and the specific patterns and colours resulting from these conditions. Black opals, known for their dark body tone, create a vivid and colourful play of spectral colours due to the diffraction of light within the opal's microstructure.

A person holding a Chinese writing pattern opal engagement ring

Chinese writing patterns, characterised by intricate characters or symbols used in the Chinese writing system, are not naturally occurring within opals but rather products of human culture and language. The play-of-colour in opals, including black opals, arises from the diffraction of light within tiny silica spheres or layers. The arrangement, size, and presence of impurities in these silica structures determine the opal's colours and patterns, which can include spots, stripes, flashes, and unique formations like "pinfire" or "harlequin." These distinctive patterns set opals apart, making them some of the rarest and most valuable jewellery pieces available today.

While acquiring opals with "named" patterns can be a significant investment, you don't necessarily need a substantial budget to enjoy their beauty. Gem triplet opals, for example, can display captivating patterns like "rolling flash," "feather," and "ribbon." A pendant set in gold and diamonds, like the one you mentioned, can exhibit these patterns in a striking combination of red-orange and blue-green rolling flash. It's a testament to the enchanting diversity that opals offer to jewellery enthusiasts, regardless of their budget.


Opals, with their captivating array of patterns and colours, are truly nature's works of art. Among these mesmerising patterns, the "Mixed Pattern" stands out as one of the most common and yet equally fascinating. This name aptly describes opals that exhibit a blend of several different patterns. It's crucial to note that opals displaying any form of pattern are already quite rare, and the "Mixed Pattern" can command top values when combined with other outstanding qualities.

The "Blocky Pattern" is highly sought after due to its resemblance to the extremely rare and coveted "Harlequin" pattern. Any opal that even remotely echoes this illustrious pattern is considered highly valuable. These "blocks" of colour are particularly prized whenever they manifest.

When it comes to opal patterns, larger "blocks" of colour are the most coveted and visually striking. These substantial colour formations are exceedingly rare and have become the most desirable elements in opal patterns. This large "block" of colour can apply to various other patterns, such as floral, rolling flash, or mixed patterns.

The "Broad Rolling Flash Pattern" is one of the most dynamic and captivating patterns among opals. Its fiery activity and movement make it a visual spectacle. This pattern can manifest as large blocks of colour with a dynamic interplay of hues rolling across the opal's surface. It may also appear as a continuous rolling colour flash flowing through a mixed pattern, creating a breathtaking effect. This phenomenon can occur on a micro level within isolated sections of the opal or across its entire surface, sometimes even coexisting with a completely different pattern. The variations are infinite, but the brilliance of the display remains unmistakable.

So whatever your budget and weather you are looking for a ring, a pendant, earrings or a bracelet looking for distinct patterns will ensure that you are buying a premiere piece, and the incredible Australian Opal can provide this in any budget!

While every Opal has a unique pattern, there are twelve categories of patterns that all Opals fit within:

A mixed pattern opal

Mixed Pattern

The 'Mixed Pattern' in opal gemstones is a captivating phenomenon where a beautiful blend of diverse patterns gracefully coexists within a single gem. Opals with this enchanting feature are exceptionally rare, making them highly coveted by discerning collectors and jewellery enthusiasts alike. When a 'Mixed Pattern' opal also boasts excellence in other key parameters, it ascends to the pinnacle of opal beauty, commanding top-tier values in the world of precious gemstones.

Blocky pattern

The Harlequin pattern, a true marvel in the world of gemstones, is renowned for its extreme rarity and unparalleled beauty. Its scarcity renders it a true treasure among gem connoisseurs. Any opal pattern that even remotely echoes the enchanting Harlequin is considered a prized find, commanding the admiration and desire of collectors and aficionados. When these captivating 'blocks' of colours emerge within an opal, their value soars, making them highly sought after for their exquisite and extraordinary appeal.


Board Blocky pattern

The pinnacle of opal patterns is the emergence of grand 'blocks' of vibrant colour, a phenomenon reminiscent of the elusive and highly coveted Harlequin pattern. These magnificent 'blocks' are exceptionally rare, making them the most sought-after and treasured aspect of opal patterns. The allure of a large 'block' of colour transcends pattern types, whether it be in a floral, rolling flash, or mixed pattern – when 'broad and blocky,' it elevates the opal's beauty to a breathtaking level, capturing the hearts of discerning gemstone enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.


Broad Rolling Flash Pattern

The 'Rolling Flash' pattern stands as the epitome of dynamic opal patterns. It embodies the essence of fire and movement, captivating the senses with its striking and ever-changing display. This enchanting pattern can manifest in various forms, from mesmerising large blocks of colours that gracefully roll across the gem's surface to a consistent, flowing colour flash that weaves its magic within a mixed pattern. Whether it reveals its brilliance on a micro-scale within isolated sections of the opal or extends across the entire gem, or even juxtaposes with entirely different patterns, the 'Rolling Flash' presents an infinite array of captivating variations. Yet, amidst this endless diversity, one thing remains unmistakable – the sheer brilliance of its display and its mesmerising effect on the beholder.


Bamboo Leaf Pattern

"The captivating 'Bamboo Leaf Pattern' is a visual delight that mirrors the vibrant veins of colour, evoking the organic beauty of bamboo shoots naturally winding their way through potch or full opal gemstones. This pattern enchants with its graceful portrayal of nature's inspiration, adding an element of elegance and mystique to the opal's allure.


 Cats eye Pattern

The elusive 'Rolling Cat's Eye Pattern' is a treasure among opal enthusiasts, a rarity that graces opals boasting a high cabochon shape. When you gently rotate such an opal, a mesmerising flash of colour appears, forming a delicate, enchanting line that seems to mimic the graceful gaze of a cat's eye. This phenomenon is a testament to the opal's exceptional beauty and unique characteristics, making it a prized find for those seeking opulence and intrigue in their gemstone treasures.


 Cathedral Pattern

"The Boulder Opal unveils a rare and captivating pattern, often born from the whispers of ancient wood or vegetation matter. This unique natural phenomenon adds an extra layer of mystique and individuality to these exceptional gemstones, making them true treasures for those who seek the extraordinary in their jewellery collection.


Chaff Pattern

These exquisite lines, resembling the graceful patterns of straw stalks or chaff lines that intersect in various directions, lend an enchanting and rustic charm to Boulder Opals. They create a natural masterpiece within the gemstone, offering a delightful blend of earthy elegance and artistic allure.


 Chinese Writing Pattern

The 'Chinese Writing Stone Opals' are as intriguing as their name implies. Within these opals, you'll discover captivating natural formations that bear an uncanny resemblance to the intricate strokes of Chinese calligraphy. Each gem holds a unique and artistic story, making it a fascinating and culturally rich addition to any jewellery collection.


 Dragon Skin Pattern

Within these splendid Ethiopian and Boulder opals lies a mesmerising pattern reminiscent of nature's most exquisite creations – snake skin. The undulating, scaly design gracefully unfolds, offering a tactile and visual feast that mirrors the serpentine beauty of these precious creatures. Possessing a timeless and enchanting allure, these opals are a testament to the artistry of nature itself and a captivating choice for those who seek a touch of the wild in their jewellery.


 Floral Pattern

These opals are a canvas of nature's artistry, boasting flowing patterns reminiscent of delicate blossoms in full bloom. Their vibrant hues swirl together in a harmonious dance, much like a lush flower patch bursting with colours. Each gem encapsulates the essence of a blooming garden, making it a perfect choice for those who appreciate the enchanting beauty of nature's floral tapestry in their jewellery.


 Fern Pattern

These opals reveal an enchanting pattern reminiscent of lush fern fronds, with delicate tendrils extending gracefully from a central stem. The organic, fern-like formations within these gems capture the essence of nature's intricate design, offering a captivating and elegant touch to your jewellery collection.


Feather Pattern

Imagine opals adorned with a mesmerising pattern reminiscent of the illustrious peacock's feathers. This captivating display begins at the central point and gracefully radiates outward, like the resplendent plumes of this majestic bird. These opals emulate the elegance and vibrancy of peacock feathers, adding a touch of regal beauty to your jewellery collection.


 Honeycomb Pattern

The 'Honeycomb Pattern' stands among the most coveted treasures in Ethiopian opals. Its allure lies in its exquisite diversity, with opals showcasing a captivating array of shapes and sizes within this hexagonal marvel. Resembling the intricate beauty of a beehive, this seamless pattern weaves together seamlessly, making each opal a unique masterpiece that mirrors the precision and charm of nature's own design.

 Mackerel Pattern

Discover the enchanting world of opals adorned with stunning rolling patterns, reminiscent of the graceful mackerel fish as it twists and turns in the water. Among these mesmerising patterns, the 'Ribbon Mackerel' stands as a flowing, interconnected masterpiece, capturing the fluid elegance of the mackerel's movement. Each opal is a testament to the harmony of nature's artistry, making it a rare and exquisite choice for those who appreciate the beauty of the sea in their jewellery.


Galaxy Pattern

Opals showcasing this enchanting pattern evoke the timeless wonder of celestial constellations. Like miniature galaxies set in stone, these gems feature delicate and vibrant hues that mirror the brilliance of distant stars. Each opal is a celestial masterpiece, capturing the beauty of the night sky's mysteries, making it a truly mesmerising choice for those who seek a touch of cosmic splendour in their jewellery.


 Neon Flash Pattern

To earn the prestigious title of 'Neon Flash Pattern,' opals must exhibit the brightest, most dazzling play-of-colour, typically categorized as B1 brilliance. This rare and coveted pattern blankets the entire opal in a mesmerising display of radiant hues. It represents the pinnacle of opal beauty, making each gem a true masterpiece that commands attention and admiration among discerning collectors and connoisseurs.


 Patchwork Pattern

The 'Quilted Opal' lives up to its name by presenting a captivating tapestry of multiple closely related patterns within a single gem. These intricate designs mirror the artistry of quilt patterns, creating a harmonious and visually stunning masterpiece. Each 'Quilted Opal' tells a unique story, making it a cherished choice for those who appreciate the beauty of diverse patterns seamlessly woven together in their jewellery.

 Puzzle Pattern

In the world of Ethiopian opals, the term 'Jigsaw Puzzle Pattern' refers to a delightful blend of complementary patterns that seamlessly interlock, much like the pieces of a well-fitted jigsaw puzzle. These patterns harmonise and come together to create a unique and mesmerising opal gem, a testament to nature's artistry and a captivating choice for those who appreciate the beauty of diverse patterns working in perfect harmony within their jewellery.


 Ribbon Pattern

Imagine opals adorned with graceful formations that resemble the delicate rolls of ribbons, each showcasing a vivid array of colours. This enchanting phenomenon adds a touch of elegance and vibrancy to these opals, making them a striking choice for those who appreciate the artistry of nature's colourful ribbons in their jewellery.


 Skin to skin Pattern

In the vibrant world of opals, the term 'Skin to Skin' takes on unique meanings in different regions. In Brazil, it denotes a stunning crystal opal that exhibits opalescent beauty both on its top and bottom surfaces, which may vary in clarity and may include traces of potch. In Australia, it refers to rough opals that prominently display opalescence, with minimal potch, emphasising the opal's radiant charm. Regardless of its origin, 'Skin to Skin' opals are a testament to the gem's mesmerising allure, making them a captivating choice for jewellery enthusiasts around the world.


Moss Pattern

The 'Moss Pattern' in opals is a breathtaking homage to the lush landscapes of a rainforest, where the delicate formations of moss on rocks come to life. These opals unveil exquisite and intimate displays of vibrant greens that, at times, closely resemble the very essence of moss itself. The 'Moss Pattern' can be described as a mesmerising blend, combining elements of pinfire and sheen patterns, resulting in a distinctive and harmonious opalescent display. Its remarkable consistency and stability make it instantly recognisable and cherished by gem enthusiasts. At a molecular level, the intricate and uniform arrangement of atoms adds an extra layer of fascination to this natural wonder.


Snake Skin

Ethiopian opals adorned with the mesmerising 'Snake Skin Pattern' exude an air of mystique and natural elegance. This captivating design emulates the intricate scales of a snake, gracefully meandering across the gem's surface. While the 'Snake Skin Pattern' is predominantly found in Ethiopian opals, its appearance in Boulder opals is a rare and treasured occurrence. Each opal is a testament to the artistry of nature, capturing the serpentine charm of these enchanting creatures, and making it a striking choice for those who seek unique and captivating patterns in their jewellery.


Jig Saw Pattern

Reserved for the most exquisite black opals, the term 'Unpredictable Elegance' encapsulates the sheer brilliance of these gems. These opals showcase an awe-inspiring explosion of colours, with no discernible systematic pattern. Instead, they offer a captivating and ever-changing symphony of hues that dance across the gem's surface. Each 'Unpredictable Elegance' opal is a masterpiece of nature, embodying the essence of opalescent beauty at its most enchanting and unpredictable, making it a prized and extraordinary choice for those who crave the allure of opulence in their jewellery.


Sheen Pattern

The enchanting 'Sheen Pattern' takes its name from the mesmerising metallic allure it exudes. Much like the sleek and lustrous texture of brushed metal surfaces, the 'Sheen' pattern reflects a distinctive and complex metallic radiance. This unique opalescent effect goes beyond the typical play-of-colour found in rolling flash and other patterns, offering an alluring and captivating display that captures the essence of refined opulence. An opal adorned with the 'Sheen Pattern' is a true testament to the artistry of nature, making it an exquisite choice for those who appreciate the subtle yet brilliant beauty of opals in their jewellery.


Spider Web Pattern

The 'Spider Web Pattern' within opals unfolds like an intricate tapestry of nature, resembling delicate spider webs. These captivating formations are crafted with fine white potch lines, while some may feature colourful veins, reminiscent of the beauty found in nature's most delicate creations. Each opal bearing the 'Spider Web Pattern' tells a story of artistic craftsmanship by Mother Earth herself, making it a timeless and mesmerising choice for those who appreciate the delicate and intricate wonders of the natural world in their jewellery.


 Star Dust Pattern

"Imagine opals adorned with tiny patterns that mirror the breathtaking beauty of a galaxy filled with stars. These opals unveil a celestial display, with miniature patterns that evoke the awe and wonder of the night sky. Each opal is a microcosm of the cosmos, capturing the brilliance of distant stars in a mesmerising and enchanting way. For those who seek the allure of the universe in their jewellery, these opals offer a captivating choice.


 Veined Pattern

Boulder opals often showcase a breathtaking pattern known for its elegant and artistic allure. This captivating phenomenon unveils multiple veins of colour that gracefully flow in either horizontal or vertical lines. These veins can feature similar or contrasting hues, creating a harmonious and visually stunning composition within the opal gemstone. Each opal bearing this enchanting pattern is a testament to the natural beauty of Boulder opals, making it a cherished choice for those who appreciate the richness and diversity of colours in their jewellery.



Multi fire Pattern

Opal flaunts two or more complementary colours, offering directional or flashy charm.



Pastel Red Pattern

Horizontal or vertical veins of similar or different colours, a signature of boulder opal.


Picture Stone Pattern

Opals, renowned for encapsulating vivid images, often display figures, landscapes, and unmistakable 'pictures' within, especially in Australian Opals.


Double Sided Colour Pattern

Horizontal or vertical veins of similar or different colours, frequently found in boulder opal.



Rare pure crystal opals with dark body tone (N1), a striking departure from the usual N5 to N7 body tones found in crystal opals.

Saturated Pattern

Many miners use this terminology, if the opal is full Colour or pattern.


Dark Opal Pattern

Encompasses semi-black opals from Lightning Ridge and richly hued Ethiopian opals, which, while not classified as black by gemological associations, exude a captivating dark allure.

Painted Lady Pattern

These opals are from Andamooka and are natural, they are not hand painted.


Smoked Black Pattern

Reserved for Ethiopian crystal opals treated to achieve a dark, alluring hue, often referred to as 'smoked opal'.

Electric Blue Pattern

This formation describes colour brighter than normal sea blue.

 Fingerprint Pattern

This pattern is very rare. We have only ever seen it on one Mexican Opal.

Asteria Pattern

A rare and highly sought-after opal pattern characterised by its mesmerising radiating design originating from a central nucleus. Among my personal favorites.

 Clover Leaf Pattern

Another rare pattern resembling a clover leaf, sometimes repeating itself.

In the vibrant world of opal colours, nature's artistry is on full display. From the iridescent play-of-colour in crystal opals to the rich, mysterious depths of black opals, each gemstone tells a unique story. Whether you seek the fiery brilliance of red or the soothing allure of blue, opals offer an array of colours to match your desires. Discover the opal that resonates with your soul, and let its captivating beauty become a cherished part of your jewellery collection. Explore the kaleidoscope of opal colours and bring your vision to life today