20 January 2017
The Turnbull Government has announced $455,000 for the South Australian Museum to acquire the rare Fire of Australia opal, through the National Cultural Heritage Account.
The funding secures the 988 gram opal, worth an estimated $900,000, believed to be the most valuable piece of rough opal in existence.
The Fire of Australia is a significant acquisition for South Australia and the nation’s heritage for its rarity and its links to early resource exploration and mining.
There is no known example of another stone of this size consisting entirely of gem quality opal, making it one of the most exceptional opals in the world.
The Turnbull Government is dedicated to preserving and keeping Australia’s unique artefacts in the country for current and future generations.
The Government’s National Cultural Heritage Account enables institutions like the South Australian Museum to acquire significant objects and ensure they are preserved in Australia for public display.
The current owners, the Bartram Family, have generously agreed to sell the opal for $500,000, considerably less than its estimated market value, to prevent it from being sold overseas and cut into gemstones.
It is the only such piece available for public display in Australia.
The South Australian Museum will contribute the remaining $45,000 required to purchase the opal.
Originally hand mined by Walter Bartram at Eight Mile field in Coober Pedy, the outstanding gemstone has remained in the family’s possession since its discovery in 1946.
The opal will be preserved and displayed to the public as a single intact natural science object.
For more information, images and vision contact: https://www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/