The First Opal I Ever Saw
I was about ten years of age when I first set eyes on an opal. It was in a crystal opal ring from Coober Pedy on my grandmother’s finger. It was love at first sight. The ring to the left was similar, as I recall, but of course that was about 50 years ago. We never did find that ring after Lily Thornander passed away in 1956. Who knows who eventually got it.
The next time I encountered opals was when I was about 30 years of age. I was staying with a friend who was an expert opal triplet cutter. This time I looked at them through different eyes.
I remarked to my friend that a stone with such variety of unbelievable colors would be easy to sell.
My First Try At Selling Opal
My friend smiled and offered to let me take some of his opals on consignment and have a go at selling them. I think he asked $600 for a parcel of opal triplets (laminates), which was a lot of money in 1972. I decided to have a go at selling them, so I agreed on his price, took the opals, separated them carefully and priced them individually. I didn’t know a thing about selling opal, and i didn’t realize that most people would want them set as opal jewellery, such as opal rings and pendants etc…but I just felt that such beautiful stones would have to be easy to sell. Maybe it was my initial enthusiasm…but I sold the lot in just a few days..by just calling in to business as I traveled into the countryside. Not long after this I decided to learn how to cut them myself…and that was the beginning of my opal business.
I made some opal pendants and opal cuff links as well. Needless to say, this particular piece is not for sale! The stone is a boulder opal from the Queensland fields. I was selling boulder opals at a time when people still l thought they were doublets. Many valuable gems slipped through my fingers at that time because of a lack of knowledge on my part and a lack of appreciation from the public. Black Boulder opal now ranks with Lightning Ridge black opal in terms of value and demand.
My next step took me directly to the source. I acquired a claim at the Lightning Ridge opal fields a town of amazing opal history , home to some of the most beautiful opals in the world. It was exciting working this claim, but eventually, responsibilities at the coast forced me to sell the mine. Experience has shown me, that to be successful as a miner you really have to be dedicated and live on the job. My specialty is opal cutting and dealing and so I have stuck to that most of the time. I decided to focus on opal jewelry designing and promotion, and that decision has brought me to this point. www.opalmine.com, is arguably the largest and most educational opal site on the internet, and my CD ROM “Opal for the Ordinary Bloke” continues to be well received internationally.
Opal An Unlucky Stone? That’s a joke!
Some people say that Opal is an unlucky stone. One thing I have found in life is that, if a person really believes something, it’s pretty useless trying to talk them out of it, so I usually agree while adding, “It’s true that opal is unlucky…unlucky that none of us had the foresight to buy a few kilos of it back in 1970 when you could have bought high quality crystal opal for about $500 per troy oz.” Today you would pay a few thousand dollars per oz for the same rough opal material.
In the past 30 years, I have made many friends in the opal industry. It is a pretty small community, and if someone does not act honestly, it gets around pretty quick. Having a good name in this industry is very useful, considering that at times, large parcels of precious opal stones have to be handled, and dishonest people could easily cheat. But they usually get found out and are avoided.
Opal Miner’s Hut a part of Australia’s history
In recent years, my nephew, Peter Youngson, who specializes in Australian Sheepskin, has taken over the Opal Miner’s Hut, and sadly the old building was demolished a few years ago, but Peter has a new shop in Tweed Heads which he calls ‘the Sheepskin Hut’. My sister Malvie, who has been working there since the mid 70’s, now cares for the Opals. Malvie was about to retire a few years ago but we just couldn’t do without her, and she now works on whenever she is needed. If you are in Australia, you can ring the shop on 0755364907 to get directions and inquire about when she is there. But of course the online opal shop here at opalmine.com has everything and more that you need to make a purchase, and you get personalized attention as a bonus. Its difficult to get that much service in a busy jewellery shop. This has given me more time to concentrate on exporting through opalmine.com. The internet has meant he can give more personalized attention to the tens of thousands of customers we have dealt with over the years, over 8000 of whom have signed our visitors book.
International Opal Promotions
I’ve also displayed and dealt with business associates in the Holidome at the famous Tucson Arizona Gem Show, where I sold about $30,000 worth of opal in four days. For a while I enjoyed displaying at the International Fossil and Mineral show in Tokyo. It’s amazing as you go from one international show to the other, how many people turn up that you’ve seen before.
After many years dealing in crystal, black, boulder, and white opals, my eyes still sparkle when I see a beautiful stone–just the way they did when I saw my first opal in my grandmother’s ring 50 years ago. That’s history now. I hope you’ll let me put a sparkle in your eyes as you gaze on that unique opal that was ‘made’ for your own personality. Because, just like you are unique, so is opal. There are no two stones exactly the same.
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