Monday 10 August 2015
Special Edition 148
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Unearthing the Virgin Rainbow: the most beautiful opal in the world
By Michael Dulaney
PHOTO: The Virgin Rainbow is considered the finest opal ever unearthed. (ABC News: Michael Clements)
How the excavation of a disused mineshaft lead to the discovery of the million-dollar Virgin
Rainbow, the "most spectacular piece of opal ever unearthed".
John Dunstan has been mining for opals out in the desert soil of Coober Pedy for nearly 50 years, but
he has never found a gemstone better than the one he uncovered in 2003.
The Virgin Rainbow, as it's now known, goes on display at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide as the
centrepiece of an exhibition created to celebrate this year's centenary of opal mining in Australia.
It is said to glow with an internal fire, catching the available light and sending it back in a brilliant
The Belemnite "pipe" - an opal formed over millions of years in the skeleton of an extinct ancesr>tor of
the modern cuttlefish - was dislodged while John was digging into the workings of an old mineshaft with
But he said it took a while for the gem's beauty to reveal itself among the rubble.
"It showed this beautiful colour on the tip, but it was still in this hard lump of sandstone," John explained.
"So we cleaned it off and we could see it was a nice piece, but we didn't know if it was solid, because a
lot of time they've got sand in them or intrusions.
"There was a thick skin on it, like a rusty band around it, so we cleaned that off, and every time we
touched it some more colour would come out. It was a true gemstone."
John said it wasn't until he took the opal home and began working it over and cleaning it with a
grinding wheel that its true significance hit home.
"I knew it was one of the best ever," he said.
"You'll never see another piece like that one, it's so special.
"That opal actually glows in the dark - the darker the light, the more colour comes out of it, it's
"I've done a lot of cutting and polishing [of opals], I've been doing it for 50 years, but when you
compare it to the other pieces that claim to be the best ever, this one just killed it."
The Virgin Rainbow was first put up for auction, but John said none of the bids received matched what
he expected for such a precious stone now valued at more than $1 million.
He said the eventual offer from the South Australian Museum was ultimately the best option, as it would
keep the opal in Australia.
As part of the museum's exhibition next month, the Virgin Rainbow will join a collection of opalised
fossils from the inland sea which once covered outback South Australia, including the skeleton of a
6m long Addyman Plesiosaur.
Coober Pedy District Council tourism officer Duncan McLaren said there are hopes the exhibition will
drive tourism to the remote South Australian town, perhaps with some of the visitors looking to find
the next Virgin Rainbow.
"It would be a hope it would whet the appetite of people to learn more about opals, to come and see where
the opal actually comes from and to see the real thing in the flesh, so to speak," he said.
"So the value is really the quality of the exhibition in terms of its educational abilities, to show
people a little bit of Coober Pedy without them actually having to come up to Coober Pedy."
Even though he pulled it from its ancient home, John said will still have to get in line with the rest of
the public to catch a glimpse of the opal's vibrant colours.
"I urge all people to go have a look at it, because it's a once in a lifetime piece," he said.
"I'll be going down to see it for sure."
Rail cuts not expected to impact Ghan Coober Pedy stopover
Posted Fri at 1:21pm
Cuts to services by Great Southern Rail are not expected to affect The Ghan's new stop at
However, Great Southern said the Coober Pedy stopover journey was still on the 2016-2017 schedule as it
sold out during its first year.
It said it expects minimum impact to the journey and the newest fares were expected to be released within
the next week.
Congratulations, Copper Coast Council
FamilyVoice Australia 7 August 2015
“Copper Coast councillors deserve congratulations for responding to huge community
concern by voting this week to overturn their earlier decision to fly the rainbow flag,”
FamilyVoice Australia research officer Ros Phillips said today.
“Like members of the Tea Tree Gully Council, who voted 10:2 on 14 July to reject the flag, Copper
Coast councillors have realised that the issue has divided rather than united the people of Yorke
Peninsula. The rainbow flag symbolises a political campaign to change the time-honoured complementary
meaning of marriage – a campaign opposed by many ratepayers.”
Ros Phillips said that a social inclusion policy, now being considered by Copper Coast councillors, should
include all sections of the community rather than singling out the LGBTI or any other minority group.
“The most socially excluded people today are not ‘gay’ – they are those who are discriminated against
because of their body shape, IQ, ethnicity, religion or poverty,” Ros Phillips said. “They suffer
discrimination in employment and hurtful taunts, to the point where some attempt
or commit suicide. But where is their flag?
“There is one flag that represents and unites all Australians, and that is the Australian flag.
Local councils should fly it with pride,” Ros Phillips said.
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