Another amazing opal spot in the Yowah region
I visited Koroit opal mine back in 1973. It was on a property called Boobora station. What attracted me most of all as we rattled along the old corrugated road between Cunnamulla and Charleville, western Queensland, was the beautiful streams of hot crystal clear water gushing from bore heads. We stopped and drank in the scene more than the water, to see the contrast between this glassy pool of reflective fluid, and the dried out terrain of the Australian outback.
Of course back in those years, Renate and I knew very little about the history of the bore drains, installed by the old station owners to water their sheep and cattle. Even less about the amazing opal stones that were cleaved from the harsh ground.
Somewhere I have a photo of myself, glaring down one of these holes dug by old opal miners dating back to the 19th century. They must have been on to something, judging by the amount of work they did. We didn’t find any opal during that visit, and it wasn’t until the mid eighties that we returned for further investigation.
My mate Roger and I decided to take our families on a little vacation to the Queensland opal mines. We were invited to stay in an old shearer’s camp for a couple of weeks. The kids had a wonderful time gathering wood for fires during the day and lighting up the old wood burning fire at night. The food was good and in between potato throwing fights at night and lots of fossicking in the old opal dumps during the day, it gave them an experience that they have never forgotten.
When we first starting digging opal at Koroit opal mine, we were looking for full color stones without any ironstone inclusions. We acted in ignorance, not realizing that various people have different opinions about what looks better in opal. Many people, particularly Europeans and Scandinavians in particular really like the interesting patterns, shapes and often ‘pictures’ seen in these beautiful pieces containing precious opal and ironstone mixed.
All sorts of attempts have been used to describe this combination of earth’s materials. Expressions such as ‘Matrix‘, meaning ‘A situation or surrounding substance within which something else originates, develops, or is contained’. Or in feminine terms ‘womb’ from which the word ‘maternal’ or ‘mother’ originates.
This word was applied to this special stone to describe small precious flecks of opal captivated or held by mother ironstone. The varieties of this matrix are endless. I have coined the expression ‘Abstract’ opal to describe interesting patterns and shapes within the stone which have no recognizable similarity, but like an abstract oil painting, can be so fascinating to observe.
Other types gems of the Koroit opal mine, similar to Yowah and boulder opal from further north, can be described as picture stones in that they present a pattern or shape that has a similarity to something known in nature, be it clouds, animals, heavenly bodies, sea creatures, etc.
The Koroit Opal Mine diggings have become much more extensive in recent years. I visited there back in the 60’s when they were still digging with picks and shovels. At the time there was no one there. The field had been abandoned. But the whole area is opening up again.