Black Opal Jewelry From The Lightning Ridge Collection By John Ford

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Lightning Ridge, Australia

Explore Lightning Ridge Black Opal with John’s Exclusive Videos and Photos

Mine Shaft Lightning Ridge Opals

Down The Hatch!

John and son, Christopher, made the trip down the 70 foot ladder inside the tiny shaft for a look around this mine. Instead of climbing out the hole with a pocket full of opal, they only emerged with sweaty brows.

Lightning Ridge Mines

Mine Shaft

This is a photo of the entrance to a mine. The miners go down this shaft, around 70 or more feet down, and tunnel out in search of opal. The opal is then brought out of the shaft mines.

Lightning Ridge Opal Mines


These are old mines and tailings that come from below where the opal is separated. It litters the landscape like craters on the moon. There are literally hundreds of these sites all over the Lightning Ridge area.

Black Opal Country

Welcome to Mining Country

John Ford at the Lightning Ridge Black Opal Country Welcome sign. An sediment washer is mounted atop the entrance sign.

Lightning Ridge Opals

McFadin Claim

John with miner, Butch Mcfadin, looking at opal on the hood of Butch’s car. Not all transactions are done in the comfort of the Bowling Club or a private room. John likes the hood method better!

inspecting Lightning Ridge Opals

Inspecting Black Opal

John buying Black Opal for the Lightning Ridge Collection in Sydney, Australia in July 2012

Lightning Ridge Opals

McDonald’s 6 Mile

John at the site of first mine shaft in The Coocoran Opal Fields.
The Coocoran Opal Fields consist of about 50 named opal fields, located east Lightning Ridge. Most of the gem opal found here is “nobby” opal, which occur in spheroidal or disc shapes. Occasionally, opalised fossils of shells, bones and teeth are found.
This was the home to lots of dinosaurs!

Jag Hill Mine

Gems from Jag Hill

John with Donna Macdonald closing on an opal mined by her father, the late Duncan Macdonald and her older brother Paul (both highly respected miners).
John walked away with 12 carat and 5 carat Lightning Ridge Black Opals from the Jag Hill Mine.

Lightning Ridge Opals

Australian Opal Exhibition

John and his son Christopher examining a parcel of opal at the Australian Opal Exhibition at the Gold Coast in Australia.

Opal Mine

Opal Washing Machine

When the sediments containing opal are brought from the mine, normally on a conveyor line, they are loaded into a truck and brought to a wash plant. The material is washed, leaving the heavier pebbles and opal behind with the mud washed off.

Maxine Lightning Ridge Opals

Maxine O’Brien

John with Maxine O’Brien from the Lightning Ridge Miners’ Association in Surfer’s Paradise. She is the namesake of the “Maxine”, the Black Opal and diamond ring that brought home Platinum Honors in the Classical Division of the 2014 AGTA Spectrum Awards. Maxine subsequently joined John at the AGTA awards ceremony in Tucson, Arizona.

Dawn Princess

Happy Hour at Sea

It's five o'clock on the Dawn Princess sailing from Perth to Sidney, Australia. John is with his family and Aussie friends celebrating!

Pearl Assoc

Pearl Association

John visits the Pearl Association and enjoys learning the history of pearling in Broom, Australia

Lightning Ridge Opals

The Queen

John and son Christopher with Brook Holland, the Queen of Lightning Ridge, at the Australian Opal Exposition in The Gold Coast.


Opal Mining Hoist

The hoist (pictured here) brings sedimentary material up to the surface from the mine. Some miners even use a giant vacuum to bring the material up.


The Wallangulla Motel

John and his son Christopher enjoyed their stay at The Wallangulla Motel. The staff was friendly and helpful!


Mining Housing

John with miner Butch McFadin viewing where Butch’s father lives on the claim: in this incredible passenger car!


Lightning Ridge District Bowling Club

The Lightning Ridge District Bowling Club (lawn bowling outside, not our type of bowling!). It is the bar, casino, restaurant, and meeting area. It is where the many opal miners do business.

mining camp

McFadin Camp

Here they are on the McFadin claim showing where miner, Butch McFadin, lived before he moved to town. These miners, their tenacity, and ability to mine opal are admirable.

Opal Buyer

Buying Room

This is an example of a private buying room. The miner visits a room not visible from a street, with a color coded symbol to show that they are selling rough opal. A fence separates the rooms from the street and the buyer and miner park directly in front

Buying Black Opal

Buying Black Opal

John buying Black Opal for the Lightning Ridge Collection in Sydney, Australia in July 2012.


John and Friends

John & Christopher with friends at the Australian Opal Exhibition on the Gold Coast in Australia.


Graham Mitchell

John and his son Christopher with Graham Mitchell. Graham is a good friend who hosted an exclusive "Very, Very Late Christmas in July” party at his home, Algiers on the Gold Coast, for his friends.


Rain Forest

John visiting the Rain Forest in Australia.