The unique and magnificent Royal Peacock Opal gems were produced nearly 14 million years ago, when volcanic activity was high in the region. An ancient lake covered most of the area, which was filled by a tremendous amount of volcanic ash, which covered an abundance of limbs, twigs, and other rotting woods. Heat and pressure then formed a silica gel that percolated through the ash and filled various cavities, which over time, eventually hardened into a spectacular variety of opals.
The amount of opals mined in the Virgin Valley is enough to impress, but the size of these opals uncovered in the region is what’s truly extraordinary. More than a quarter million carats of precious fire opals have been extracted from the Royal Peacock mines over the last 25 years, and 130-pound opals—the size of actual logs—have been extracted from the mine.
Since 1981, the Royal Peacock Opal Mine has been open to the public as a pay-to-dig mine. It has yielded countless world-class precious opal specimens during that time.
|Royal Peacock Opal. Photo: Travel Nevada|
The Royal Peacock Opal Mine is open seasonally from May 15 thru October 15, weather permitting. Reservations are not required, but please check in at the on-site gift shop prior to digging.
Bank digging typically runs $190 per person for day, where raking the tailings is $75 per person, per day. Rockhounding tools are also available for rent, including picks, shovels, rakes, screens, hard hats, gloves, and more.
The Royal Peacock Opal Mine is located in North Western Nevada, near the end of Virgin Valley Rd., 35 miles from Denio, NV.
GPS grid is: 41.7860519, -119.1002313
|Photo: Julie Wilson|
Opal is hydrous silica (SiO₂·nH₂O). Technically, opal is not a mineral because it lacks a crystalline structure. Opal is supposed to be called a mineraloid. Opal is made up of extremely tiny spheres (colloids) that can be seen with a scanning electron microscope (SEM).
Gem-quality opal, or precious opal, has a wonderful rainbow play of colors (opalescence). This play of color is the result of light being diffracted by planes of voids between large areas of regularly packed, same-sized opal colloids. Different opalescent colors are produced by colloids of differing sizes.
Not all opals have the famous play of colors, however. Common opal has a wax-like luster & is often milky whitish with no visible color play at all. Opal is moderately hard (H = 5 to 6), has a white streak, and has conchoidal fracture.
Several groups of organisms make skeletons of opaline silica, for example hexactinellid sponges, diatoms, radiolarians, silicoflagellates, and ebridians. Some organisms incorporate opal into their tissues, for example horsetails/scouring rushes and sawgrass. Sometimes, fossils are preserved in opal or precious opal.