Peter Brusaschi of opalmine.com shares the story of his first encounter with opals in the Australian Outback.
By Peter Brusaschi 2 minute read
Yowah nuts - opals in the Australian Outback

Yowah nuts are walnut-sized stone concretions with opal in their centers. A split Yowah nut, “Lagoon,” Queensland, Australia. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Bonhams.

All the treasures have been found! At least, that’s what I thought when I first set foot in the red dust of western Queensland, Outback Australia.

“Whatever is to be found in the ground has already been found!”

“Treasures are for Long John Silver, buried, dug up, and lost again hundreds of years ago by pirates and men of adventure!”

Fancy going as a traveling minister to such a desolate, godforsaken country.

Western Queensland

As if the isolation, heat, dust, and gravel road corrugations weren’t enough, there were those pesky flies.

“Don’t worry about ‘em!” That was the experienced advice of the country bumpkins who didn’t know there could be a place without them. “It won’t hurt ya if ya swallow one or two with ya sandwich.”

The skies in western Queensland are very blue during the day and very black at night. I’m sure if Copernicus had aimed his telescope into the night sky of the Outback, he would have discovered a lot more than he did. No light pollution here. Just one magnificent ebony backdrop, sprinkled with endless galaxies of stars.

Queensland, Australia

Queensland, Australia. Photo by Steven Penton. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Gemstone Country

Not that the wife and I saw much of the sky in the daytime. The sparkling things in the ground held more fascination for us, confirmed rock hounds. Soon, we realized we were traveling through some of the most famous gemstone country in the world. Gravel pits became treasure troves. Dried out creeks, Treasure Islands.

Oblivious to the flies and heat, we had our heads tilted towards the ground. Our eyes darted back and forth from one rock to the other. We were looking for agate, topaz, onyx, petrified wood, and anything else that showed the telltale signs of a gemstone. On those very hot days, we would sit in the middle of a shallow creek, sifting through the gravel.

Discovering the Beauty of Opals in the Australian Outback

Hitting the opal town of Yowah will always remain in our memory.

For the first time, we encountered boulder opal, in the form of what are known as “Yowah nuts.” Suddenly, our interest in all other gemstones was pushed aside in favor of this amazing stone. Opal shows play of color, encompasses the whole spectrum of the rainbow, and displays ever-changing patterns that simulate mountain and ocean scenes, faces, and all kinds of objects and abstract shapes that challenge the imagination.

Since then, I’ve written The Ordinary Bloke’s Guide to Opal, available as an eBook.

Yowah is just one of a number of fascinating opal fields in the Australian Outback. The Australian bush has captured our hearts. To this day, we must return again and again to savor its delights.

Yowah nut opals - colors

Precious opal mixed in the iron stone of a cracked Yowah nut. Photo by Ross Sedawie. Licensed under CC By-SA 4.0.