Opal Australia Formation

Common Model

Geological processes caused water to be forced hydraulically into fractures and faults. As the water dissipated into areas of lower pressure, the opal was deposited as veins.

opal vein

opal fossils

Fossils are found in the Mesozoic era. During that time, much of South Australia was under a vast inland sea filled with prehistoric aquatic reptiles called plesiosaurs. These died and sank to the bottom of the sea, buried over the millennia by sediment.

When the sea dried up and the land turned into a desert, the acidity levels in the shallow top layer of the sandstone increased. This released silica from weathering sandstone into the layer of clay beneath, where bones and pockets left by disintegrated bones lay buried, carried down via groundwater.

Further weathering lowered the acidity levels, which allowed the silica gel to harden into opals in the pockets and impressions left by decayed animal material, like cake poured into a mould, or to soak into bones and create a replica of the internal structure.

mesotimeline

The famous Australian opal fields of Coober Pedy¬†( South Australia) are located in this region. No other environment in the world is known to have undergone this same process, which is possibly why over 90 percent of the world’s opals come from South Australia.