Yowah Nut Opals are not really ‘nuts’
Yowah nut opals are really small boulder opals that look roughly like a nut from a tree. They can be as small as an apricot seed or as large as a Mango seed. When opened up the often have layers of brown, roundish patterns much like a lemon peel that eventually, as you get to the center of the stone, ends up in either an empty cavity or an area filled with opal.
Just how the ‘kernel’ of these nuts got filled with precious opal was a complete mystery until geologists and others worked out that a long time in the past the boulder ironstone ‘nuts’ were not as hard as they are today. In fact at one stage they were quite porous, allowing a mater based chemical mix, seep down into them.
In time, this chemical ‘soup’ containing silica, dried out and left a residue which ended up being either common or precious opal.
The first time I saw a Yowah Nut opal was back in 1968
My wife and I were doing a tour of the outback. We were in Charleville, western Queensland at the time. Someone said ‘would you like to visit the opal mining town of Yowah?” The temptation was too great and we have always been happy we made that decision. It really changed our lives in more ways than one.
In those years, as probably is still the case today, a few mines were set aside for tourists to try their luck. We located the tourist mines, and for our convenience, there was a ladder you could go down. Some of our friends were not willing to take the risk, and probably today you would not be permitted to do so, but Renate and I and a couple of others couldn’t resist the temptation, and we lowered ourselves down into the depths of the earth.
Conveniently, someone had left some pics and shovels down there as well, so we enjoyed digging away hoping to find something. Suddenly something glimmered from the wall of the ‘cave’ and we gauged out a really nice chunk of what we later found out was Yowah ‘matrix’
At that early stage or our opal experience, we believed that for an opal to be valuable, it had to be all opal and no mixture of other impurities or remnants of its ironstone ‘mother.’ We didn’t realize at the time that Yowah nuts hold a fascination that extends far beyond just looking at opal itself. In fact a feature of this type of gemstone is the amazing patterns and shapes that present themselves as a result of all sorts of external influences from volcanic action, the rushing of water from giant floods, and other seismic activity. These patterns are so unique and rare that, at times even if precious opal itself is not a feature of the stone, the graphic presentation almost makes the appearance of opal irrelevant.
Examples of Yowah ‘nuts’
Here are examples of a Yowah nuts and other boulder pictures stones.
It is the uniqueness and the natural ‘look’ of these gemstones that holds a strong appeal to the type of person who is looking for something totally different to the normal, run of the mill, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, amethyst type look. In this modern synthetic world, lots of people want to connect more to the earth and the organic way things were created. Surprisingly, this demand often corresponds to the ethnic backgrounds of people. Sometimes groups of people within mainstream societies, looking for an earth connection, away from the concrete and bitumen jungles.
Interestingly this demand often surfaces among manufacturing jewelers. Particularly those who specialize in hand made creations rather than mass produced standard sized castings. Designers see the immediate potential in Yowah nuts. Not just because of their rarity and interest factor, but because of their endless design potential. Most of these Yowah nuts are usually cut in free form shape, naturally cleaved out of the rock by the lapidarist. This means that designers of Yowah Nut jewelry do not have to stick to traditional, often boring rounds, ovals and naivete (pointed end) shapes. They can use their imagination to create designs that are totally different; affording the final owner of the piece to have something that they can truly say is unique.