The Largest Recorded Fine Black Opal Nodule"Halley's Comet"Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records
Leaning Tree Claim, 3-Mile Black Opal Field, Lunatic Hill, Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, Australia
Recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest uncut black opal nodule (or "nobby" as this formation is known in the opal trade), "Halley's Comet" is most certainly a unique specimen of great fame. Deriving its name from Halley's Comet which appeared in Australian skies at the time of the find in on November 3, 1986, the monster stone of nearly 2000 carats, as large as the size of a man's clenched fist, was found by a group of five opal miners known as "The Lunatic Hill Syndicate". The partnership was named for the location of their open-cut mine that was the size of a football field on the Leaning Tree Claim in the 3-Mile Black Opal Field in Lightning Ridge.
The area had been mined since the early 1900s but had never produced a stone as big as the present specimen. This claim became so named because gougers working in the shallow flat below this hill upon which the claim is situated, jokingly considered anybody to be a lunatic who would go up a hill only to sink all the way down to the horizontally trending opal dirt levels. In those days, most of the black opals were mined at what was known as the "3 mile shallows", at an average depth of 2 to 5 meters, located just 200 meters downhill from the present open-cut. One day a lone miner decided to try his luck and dig a mine- shaft on top of the hill in the deep ground. The common belief in those times was that it was a waste of time and that no opal was ever found at such a depth, and what on earth was the lunatic doing, digging a shaft there? From that day forward that ridge was called "Lunatick Hill" by the old timers. In the end, it proved to be the richest-ever area in the region.
Lunatics or not, some few men dared do just that and with amazing results. The present specimen was found at a depth of twenty meters. The Leaning Tree Claim open-cut site remains one of Lightning Ridge's biggest tourist attractions to this day and is in the process of being Heritage listed.
More than 100,000 cubic meters of dirt were processed in an agitator (a converted concrete mixer the likes of which is typically used at Lightning Ridge to wash the opal "pay dirt") from which emerged stones ranging from 10 carats to 80 carats in addition to the 2000 carats monster "nobby".
Known internationally as one of the finest quality black opals, "Halley's Comet" exhibits a thick, black gem-grade opal color bar measuring approximately 1 inch (25mm) at its widest point that circumscribes the entire specimen at its equatorial center. The floral, harlequin pattern of gem-quality green, blue-violet and yellow, play-of-color is a five out of five.
The largest gem "nobby" to be found at the famed locality of Lightning Ridge, "Halley's Comet" is the third largest gem grade black opal ever recorded, the largest one extant, and the largest specimen ever found in this region.
This is the largest black opal to be offered at public auction to our knowledge and, as such a trophy, it deserves a central place in any serious opal collection and should be preserved as an example of Australian national heritage.
Presently weighing approximately 1980.5 carats and measuring 4 x 2 5/8 x 2 1/2in (100 x 66 x 63cm)
Exhibition Provenance: Displayed at Australian Mineral Museum, at the Earth Exchange in Sydney, from February 1992 until 1995. Whilst on display "Halleys Comet" was insured for $1,491,304.
Accompanied by a Gemstone Authentication Report, ref. no. AA 48140, dated 12/05/2011 stating solid natural opal, black, N4, free form oblong nobby, 1980.5 carats. Origin: Lightning Ridge, NSW.
Accompanied by a Guinness World Records Certificate circa 1991 stating:
The largest rough black opal weighed 2,020 carats and measured 4 x 2 5/8 x 2 ½ inches. It has been named Halley's Comet and is owned by a team of opal miners known as The Lunatic Hill Syndicate. The opal was found at Lighting Ridge, NSW, Australia on 3 November 1986.