Welcome to Lightning Ridge - Black Opal Country
A Black Opal Country
The World's Most Famous Black Opal Producer
From Outback To Outstanding
Although White Cliffs is Australia's oldest commercial opal field, Lightning Ridge black opals are the most valuable in the world. Lightning Ridge is one of the few places in the world where the precious and highly prized black opal is found. Unlike other opal, the black opal contains carbon and iron oxide trace elements, producing a very dark stone which has hints of blue, green and red play of colour.
Lightning Ridge, 770 kilometres north-west of Sydney and 72 km north of Walgett, has a population of about 1200 which is supplemented by over 80 000 visitors who arrive every year to either try their luck at fossicking or to see what an outback mining town is really like. This influx of tourists means that this once rough-and-ready town now boasts a number of good quality motels, an array of souvenir and gift shops, good restaurants, and a degree of civilisation.
Location of Lightning Ridge, NSW
Lightning Ridge boasts a number of social and sporting facilities, including a golf course, pistol club and archery club. The Opal Festival is held in the September–October NSW school holidays. Other annual events are the Easter Festival and the Opal and Gem Expo in July.
The township and the lure of the black opal have been encapsulated in Laurie Hudson's poem:
There's a sleepy little township, out beyond the western plains,
Lightning Ridge, the town of opal, where there's heat and scanty rains.
The location is not scenic, just rough ridges all around
Nature sired her scenes of beauty, in black opal, underground.
If you've never seen black opal, you have missed a splendid sight,
Like quicksilver gaily coloured, slipped through the shades of night.
Though you've roamed the whole world over, seen most all there is to see,
There are scenes you've never dreamed of, in the stone of mystery.
Origin of Lightning Ridge
Frank Leechman's The Opal Book (1961) gives an explanation of how Lightning Ridge got its name. He tells how one night a shepherd, his dog and a large mob of sheep were sheltering among the trees on the ridge from a wild storm. Suddenly, a mighty bolt of lightning struck right in the middle of the flock, killing over 200 sheep, the others scattering in terror.