Australian opal jewellery has finally come of age. In the past decade or so, the Australian government has seen fit to create a national gemstone and even though many other gemstones are found in this large continent, most of them are also found extensively in other countries. Not so with opal. Even though of course there are opals in a number of other countries, over 90% of the worlds opals come from Australia and opal jewellery has been a by product of this industry
Well, I guess, this statement coming from Australian could be perceived as being a bit prejudiced, but having said that, opal cutters like myself have certainly experimented with opals from other countries and the results have been extremely disappointing.
You see, opal, being a hydrated silica, has a certain percentage of water in it and this has the effect of making some opals insecure. You can successfully cut opals from countries which have high water content in the opal, if you do the cutting process under water and keep the opal as cool as possible. However, when the stone comes into everyday use, even experiencing hotter or dryer climates, they easily shatter, and this can be a disastrous experience if you have payed a lot of money for the opal.
Because Australia is such an old dry continent, the opal that is found in the Australian deserts have had many thousands of years to dry out gradually and become very secure. Because of this, the Australian opal cutting process does not have to be so carefully kept under water.
The opal cutter can more easily define scratches and imperfections when combining water with the dry sanding process. So Australian opal jewellery is far more secure and holds very little risk of crazing or cracking. Not so say that there are not some opal fields in Australia that produce insecure opal, but these are well known to experienced cutters who avoid them.
Advice when buying Australian Opal Jewellery
Try to buy from experienced opal dealers who have been doing it for a very long time. These cutters such as the resident cutter, Peter Brusaschi at opalmine has been processing opal for nearly 40 years and have large stocks of beautiful opals that have been out of the ground for a long time and have proved to be very secure.
Opal Jewellery itself
Opal Jewellery of course is set in a variety of different metals. For the fashion industry it can be presented in base metal, gold, silver, and rhodium or silver plated. With the crazy price of gold in 2010, the metal is pricing itself out of the average person’s pocket so much attention in recent years has been given to its less expensive sister, silver. Actually the pundants will tell you that the price of silver has a greater percentage potential to increase in value than gold in time and opal jewellers know that the white colored metal really makes opal stand out, even more so than gold. So with good reason. opalmine.com designers and opal jewellers have been emphasising the less expensive precious metal.
Australian opal jewellery set in silver
Another appealing part about using silver as the design medium in opal jewellery is the fact that, because it is not so expensive, the jeweller does not have to be as careful of the weight factor. Because of the price of gold, the jeweler is constantly trying to cut down on the amount of metal to keep the price down. Unfortunately, this sometimes makes for a less solid and secure setting, particularly when it comes to opal rings.
Weight of metal in Australian Opal Jewellery
The dollar value is not the only thing to keep in mind in regard to Australian opal jewellery design. The weight of the metal has a large bearing on the design potential. Much of the design at least at this point in history encourages rather large jewellery. Pendants and even rings are becoming huge in the fashion houses of the USA and Europe and a similar thing is happening with Australian opal jewellery. So with silver, the opal jewellery designer and the opal manufacturer can do “crazy” as it were, with imaginative creations that use lots of silver metal.
Take a look at the jewellery shop and get an idea of what is being done with opal jewellery here in Australia. And for all you folks in England, we apologise for the USA spelling of the word jewelry throughout the site. We in Australia also use the British spelling but have ended up using the American spelling for… ahem financial reasons 🙂
At least this article on Australian opal jewellery caters for the rest of the english speaking world.