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    The Science of Opal Formation

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    Event description

    Join us for a special half-day symposium on opal formation in Australia, as we review current knowledge, consider enduring questions, and look to the future.

    There will be sessions on the geological environments of opal formation, physical and chemical processes, the age of opal, formation of opalised fossils, and opal exploration, with invited speakers from research and industry.

    Purpose and scope

    To document agreed facts, areas of contention, current research efforts and industry-identified knowledge gaps in our understanding of opal formation.

    Desired outcomes
    1. Publish proceedings as a paper summarising current understandings, areas of dispute / uncertainty, and priorities for future research
    2. Discuss possibilities for ongoing work
    3. Identify desired research projects and priorities; document these as a resource for researchers seeking funding for coordinated, cost effective research
    4. Consider planning an international forum on the Science of Opal Formation in 2023

    This will be a short, sharp symposium, held online for registered participants only. We invite anyone interested in the science of opal formation to register.

    After summarising agreed key facts about opal formation, we'll run six quick-fire half hour sessions, each with brief presentations by two subject experts, followed by chaired discussion. The program will be posted on this page in mid to late September.

    The symposium will end with a focus on future directions and actions. Following the symposium, the organisers and speakers will prepare a paper for publication, summarising outcomes and recommendations. 

    The event will be recorded and the recording made available to registered participants, so if you can't join in real time, register and we'll send you a link to the recording afterwards.

    Who is this symposium for? 

    Anyone interested in the science of opal formation - everyone is welcome.  

    After you register

    When you register, you will receive a confirmation email and ticket. 

    In late September registered participants will receive a notification email with the program for the day.

    Shortly before the symposium, registered participants will be sent a link, connection instructions and online protocols for the event.


    This program is subject to change.

    8.50   Online forum opens

    9.00          Welcome, overview and session protocols

    9.10          Summary of key agreed knowledge about opal formation

    9.30          Session 1 – Formation of opal: geological environment

                     Speakers: Patrice Rey, Bruce Dickson

    10.00        Session 2 – Formation of opal: physical and chemical processes

                     Speakers: Boris Chauvire, John Watkins, Paul Thomas

    10.30        Session 3 – Age of opal

                     Speakers: Phil Bell, Bruce Dickson, Patrice Rey

    11.00 – 11.20  BREAK

    11.20        Session 4 – Formation of opalised fossils

                     Speakers: Phil Bell, Elizabeth Smith

    11.50        Session 5 – Provenance and stability of opal

                     Speakers: Paul Thomas, Anthony Smallwood

    12.20 – 12.40    BREAK

    12.40        Session 6 – Scientific research assisting opal exploration

                     Speakers: Laszlo Katona, Kurt Steffens

    1.10          Discussion – where to from here?

    1.25          Wrap-up

    1.30          CLOSE


    This symposium had its genesis at the 10th National Opal Symposium at Coober Pedy in March 2021. As always at National Opal Symposia, between sessions a group of boffins seized the opportunity to discuss opal formation - a field still riddled with mystery - over beer and red wine. As always, there wasn't enough time (or wine). They agreed to continue the conversation in Sydney.... then, with in-person meetings stymied by COVID-19, to move to an online forum, which would also enable wider participation. The organisers hope this will be the first of a series of meetings bringing together people interested in opal-related scientific research.

    Organising Committee

    Laurie Aldridge (Deakin University)

    Anthony Smallwood (International Opal Academy)

    Laz Katona (Geological Survey of South Australia)

    Jenni Brammall (Australian Opal Centre)

    Phil Bell (University of New England Armidale)

    Elizabeth T. Smith (Australian Opal Centre)

    Kurt Steffens (Queensland Boulder Opal Association)

    Paul Thomas (University of Technology Sydney)

    John Butcher (Yowah / Lightning Ridge)

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