For the first since 1946, a rare, rough opal valued at $675,000 will go on display at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, Australia. Popularly known as the Fire of Australia, this piece of opal weighs 998 grams. It is the largest high-grade opal known in the world. It is roughly the size of a softball and it displays the entire spectrum of colors - this makes it an extremely rare and precious stone. It is also extremely valuable because of the amount of red that it throws off.
The miner Walter Bartram first discovered the gem in 1946 by at the Eight Mile opal field in Coober Pedy -- a small desert town in South Australia famous for its opals.
The Bartram family, who own an opal mining and distribution business, recognized the uniqueness of the piece and decided to hold on to it. They then polished two sides of the Fire of Australia because they recognized that it was a significant discovery and wanted to show the quality of the opal. In general, large pieces of opal don't get polished, but rather they get cut up for jewelry before being polished.
Since 1946, the stone remained in the family and spent most of that time in a safety deposit box. After loaning it out to the South Australian Museum for an exhibition, Walter Bartram's son, Alan, said the family decided to place the heirloom "in safe hands." In a statement, Alan said: "We've been long term supporters of the South Australian Museum and it seems fitting that it should be passed onto the people of South Australia to enjoy."
The South Australian Museum was able to purchased the opal with the help of a grant from the Australian government. The South Australia Museum will display the Fire of Australia in the museum's foyer until February 28, before it is moved to take its place alongside the museum's extensive permanent collection of Australian precious opal.