Coober Pedy News No. 48

23 January 2004

                                                                                      Archived copy              

                                                                                                 Editorial         Letters to Editor      

John Dunstan's Pipe - the "Virgin Rainbow"

Interview with John Dunstan in his home in Coober Pedy, 21-1-04.

"My friend George, an old Coober Pedy miner, told me about a field, Brown's Folly, where he worked in 1975. He reckoned there was a good chance on the deepest level. When I went there I found it was all worked out over the years with mining, tunnelling machine, noodling machine and pillar bashers. The only way to work it was with a bulldozer and excavator. I think that if I'd gone down the shaft and had a look I would not have done the job, it was so worked out.

I found a 1970 cut on Brown's Folly that I cleaned out and then dug another four to five metres lower and I found a slip (fault) and next to it I got a parcel worth about four and a half thousand. Then I pulled my pegs and left Brown's Folly for about 18 months and worked other fields.

In the mean time I bought a 60 tonne dozer and did some mining with it and then decided to go back to Brown's Folly. The ground around where I worked previously was unpegged. Next to the cut I worked before, I spent about three weeks pushing old dirt and got down to about 11 metres. The ripper boot started breaking into the top of old ballrooms. One more rip and I would have disappeared into one they were so big. And I would have been stuck.

So I started breaking onto the ballrooms with the excavator. I couldn’t hardly find any pillars left. I started to doubt whether the job was worth doing. Then I started to dig to look for the deeper level that George had told me about but it wasn't there. The three levels that were there were all within a depth of about four metres and they were all gutted.

Then I started chopping into the end of the cut and found one level left in the roof. It was in this real hard red patch with gypsum conglomerate. It was hard to chop out with the excavator. Then we started putting the dirt through the noodling machine hoping to find some material, and we found the pipe, coated with the hard red dirt, and the broken pieces off the end of the pipe.. We saw good colour in a cross section of the pipe that the excavator must have broken off, exposing the tip of the pipe. It was just luck that the teeth of the excavator only broke off the end of the pipe instead of smashing the whole pipe into tiny pieces. And if the teeth didn't break off the tip we would never have seen the colour on the belt - it would have been impossible to see, being in the middle of a lump of that hard red dirt.

We brought it home and scraped off some of the hard red dirt. The pipe had a thick skin and you could see the colour through the skin. It looked real special.

At the end of the job we sold off all the material except the one good pipe. I cleaned it up a bit more with a 400 grit wheel. The more I ground off the dirt, the more the colour showed, all the colours of the rainbow, the whole length and surface of the pipe. We started to think of a few different names for it - like 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert' - but we were told we might have to get permission to use that name. Then we thought of 'Desert Rainbow'. In the end it came to 'Virgin Rainbow'.

Then we didn't know how much to ask for it, cleaned but not yet polished. Then I polished it and my partner, Steve Zagar, suggested we take it to Alan Bartram and see what he thought. We showed it to a few people in Coober Pedy. One was Stewart Jackson. He said it was the best thing he'd ever seen. So did Phil Lewis and Stafford Scott.

In 39 years of opal mining I've never seen anything like it. In sunlight when you turn it, the flashes are like welding flashes. I showed it to one old miner and when he first saw it he jumped backwards a metre. He said he couldn't believe it was real.

We've got it stored in a vault in Adelaide while a marketing firm finds a buyer.

God alone knows what it is worth."

From a Press Release by 

J C Wood

Universal - Holy Angels

Box 241 Farrell Flat SA 5416

"The September 11 2003 discovery by Coober Pedy Miner Johnny Dunstan, 52, of a rare Belemnite 'pipe' known now as the Virgin Rainbow has made world news. 

Dunstan and his ZD Syndicate business partner Steve Zagar have appointed the same PR consultant who represented Zagar's 1990 sale of the Jupiter Five and Persephone opals. 
A spokesperson for Universal said today - "In 1990 a representative of a world famous firm of Auctioneers told my client in Australia, his firm would set a reserve price of half a million pounds sterling for his opals.  Once we arrived in London, signed off on VAT documentation at the insured value and handed over the stock - the UK directors of that firm downgraded their reserve price ninety percent. - My client was wronged if not conned. It almost caused an international incident. Those directors admitted they knew nothing about opal. 
Though  Mr Zagar and I managed to extricate ourselves from the UK and avoid paying $125,000 pounds VAT (GST) on his stock thanks only to Geoff Walls, the SA Agent General  in London. 
I was angry because my client was put in that position. I had a pre-auction contract on those stones for one and a half million dollars - that was before Desert Storm broke. As everyone knows, US President George Bush Senior launched the first Gulf War - Desert Storm -  as the date for an auction in Geneva loomed. Prospective buyers fled back into the Gold market.
The opals sold in Geneva - and have sold several times since for very high prices we're told. But I said to Mr Zagar - aware the odds of his ever repeating that discovery were slim, "if ever we walk up this path again - we will use a private tender method to find a buyer. No more auctions!"  Ironically there's another Bush in the White House and we've just ended Gulf War Mk II - perhaps that is a good omen for Johnny Dunstan and Steve Zagar.
The tender for the Virgin Rainbow opened on January 3rd.  Details and a copy of the Opal Mine valuation with a description by Mr. Alan Bartram, Managing Director, Gawler Place Adelaide, have been sent to the world's top box office earning actors and performing artists including Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe with copies to their agents, publicists, managers and attornies.
The Virgin Rainbow Belemnite Crystal Black Opal is secured in a vault and insured for five million dollars. The sale is subject to a reserve price."


The VIRGIN RAINBOW © pending Registration of Trade Mark


The Virgin Rainbow Belemnite Crystal Black Opal was discovered at Twenty Three Mile fields Coober Pedy, South Australia, on September eleventh 2003. Defined by the world's foremost authority on South Australian opals and third generation opal family member as a fabulously unique discovery by Johnny Dunstan and his opal mining partner Steve ‘Mr. Opals' Zagar of the Z-D Syndicate.


"An exceptional gem quality polished natural solid black crystal opal 'Belemnite' fossil, freeform in shape, measuring approximately 63.3mm in length and from 13.3 mm - 14.3 mm in diameter at mid length weighing 72.65 carats displaying brilliant medium to large rolling flash pattern featuring all spectral colours from orange through to violet. This item has minor internal inclusions typically inherent in this type of specimen, one of which surfaces at the back of the gem but which does not detract from the value. The natural conical indentation is also typical and to preserve authenticity of the specimen has not been polished. This exquisite 'Belemnite' specimen possibly aged as old as 120 million years discovered on the 23 mile field in Coober Pedy displays the most brilliant colour and clarity I have ever had the good fortune to see in more than forty years experience in all sectors of the opal industry."Alan Bartram, Managing Director. The Opal Mine. 30 Gawler Place, Adelaide.

Tender Closes on May 2nd 2004

Persons wishing to submit a confidential tender to purchase the Virgin Rainbow, arguably the World’s rarest and most beautiful icon, are invited to do so in writing. Send tender form or personal note of your offer in Australian currency, placed inside a sealed envelope in a second by Certified Mail to the address below.

All unsuccessful tenders will be acknowledged in writing. Notification of successful bid contracted will only be advised to the purchaser. Payment plus South Australian Stamp Duty is to be made at Settlement by Bankers Cheque 30 days after at a date to be agreed. It will take place at the office of G Chakiris, Accountant, acting as Broker, in Adelaide. Arrangements for legal representation on behalf of the Buyer and insurance cover can be handled by him if required.

Available on request. $100 refundable deposit required. (Conditions apply)

  1. Virgin Rainbow Tender Form, Terms & Conditions.
  2. Copy of Valuation with colour image signed by A Bartram.
  3. Virgin Rainbow Article –– History in the Making.
  4. Virgin Rainbow – Iconic Talisman & Symbol of Power
  5. Virgin Rainbow Article – John Dunstan - Making of a Legend.
  6. Video presentation of The Virgin Rainbow Black Opal.
  7. CD presentation of The Virgin Rainbow Black Opal.
  8. Colour Photograph.

(Note: If no deposit is lodged with any tender – only items 1, 2, 3, & 4 will be sent, but not 5, 6, 7 & 8.)



Deposit paid as a condition of tender will be refunded by Bank Cheque.


Deposit covers supply of all items 1- 8 and provides for post and handling to anywhere on earth by certified mail.


George Chakiris, Principal RCP Partners Business & Tax Consultants acting as Settlement Conveyancers for the Vendors will write to all persons who tendered within 14 days of close of tender.


Full refund will be remitted after return of receipted items by cut off date July 4th 2004.


Confirmation: email


John Wood

Authorized Agent January 3, 2004

Universal Marketing & Public Relations - ABN 93 200 930 284

Incorporating: PMA Services & ADELAIDE APPLIED RESEARCH Division

Clare Valley Office: Holy Angels Old Church 2 Magdala Road Farrell Flat SA 5416

Mobile: 0402 363 707, Tel/Fax: 61- 8 - 8843 8079, Email:

MAILING ADDRESS – Box 241 Farrell Flat, SA 5416

"Colour retouched 1940's image of the Late Spencer Darwin Dunstan which I am lead to believe if in today's currency is 28$ million haul of opal being sorted and divided."

Image and text supplied by John Wood

See "Making of a Legend" 

To see a video of the Virgin Rainbow go to and open the third page of the "Tender Intro" section.




Click here for the website of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion" of Jesus Christ



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