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Opals – You Can Fall in Love with Them.
by Gary Hocking
Yesterday I met an Australian Jeweller in the lift of a specialist jewellery building in Sydney. He asked me what kind of jewellery work I did and I told him that I specialized in opal.
For the last fifteen years he had been making special one off hand pieces for his private customers. In all that time he had never made a piece with opals and asked me how I came to be doing that and more importantly why.
I explained to him that every single opal is different to any other and that was extremely significant. When either of us as jewellers go looking for rubies or sapphires for instance to set in a pendant or ring we spend a good deal of time looking at each stone under magnification so that we can get two or three stones that we need for the piece which are going to be exactly the same in colour and intensity. But that is definitely not the case with opal.
As all opal is unique we are looking for the opposite. We are looking for those individual qualities which set it apart from any other stone. We are looking for that blast of vibrant colour or that intricate pattern or that mass of different colours arranged in their unique form.
I explained to him that as all opal is different and that it comes in several types from different parts of Australia then you must develop a special knowledge to really understand it. Then as a cutter and polisher of these stones I have gained years and years of knowledge of opal’s intricacies from such intimate work with it.
Imagine if you sat down at a bench for a few years and stared intensely with magnified lenses at a particular type of stone and every day you spent hours making decisions as to how to get the very best out of a handful of stones and then spent days cutting them. Well you would develop some expertise with these stones would you not? I asked him how many hours has he spent staring at a single citrine or one single emerald?
Opal is a stone you can fall in love with. I asked him if he could fall in love with other types. Could he fall in love with amethysts or rubies? The answer was no as they are stones which basically all look alike and have no qualities which make you want to examine them for hours on end.
That’s why I love working with opals and making opal jewellery. I love the stone and have a real passion to make a piece of jewelry for this very gemstone that I am working with.
When I make a ring for a ruby the customer might supply a two carat round ruby and I measure the stone from every angle and then I put it aside and I make the piece from gold. I never look at the stone again and I don’t even think about it. When I finish working on the metal then I pick up the ruby and set it into the piece.
But when I make a ring for an opal my whole focus is trying to get the very best from the opal. The stone is never out of site while I am making the metal part. I am constantly picking it up and seeing where it will sit in the piece to make sure that I am not missing something. I keep muttering things like: “My God, this is going to look fantastic!” You could not do that if you did not love the stones.