Jewellery talks to Giulian’s Creative and Managing Director Gary Coffey about the beauty of Australia’s national gemstone.
Throughout history opal has been regarded as the stone of good fortune. The Romans’ called opal “cupid paederos” which translates to a child as beautiful as love. They wore the gem as a symbol of hope, purity and love, believing it had power to cure one from disease.
In 1993 the Governor-General, the Hon Bill Hayden AC proclaimed the opal to be Australia’s national gemstone, however the move saw the gemstone transition into a tourist memento and fall out of favour with locals.
“Australian’s tend to be put off by opals due to the volume of low-end tourist market jewellery and the fact that it’s a multi coloured gem so it can be difficult to work alongside current fashion trends,” explains Gary Coffey.
The inundation of low-end opals has led to many Australian’s being unfamiliar with the rare opals that are used in high-end jewellery.
“White opal, which is also referred to as common opal, would no doubt be more represented in opal jewellery and sold to the tourist market. I believe it is the reason most Australians dislike opal. The rare and more gem colours of the black and boulder are more sought after and used in fine jewellery.”
However, Blanchett’s opal earrings at the 2014 Academy Awards showed the gemstone in a new light for many Australians who had previously written opals off as a tourist commodity.
When Cate Blanchett took to the stage during the 2014 Academy Awards all eyes fell on her exquisite opal drop earrings. The Chopard earrings were made up of 62 opals totalling 33ct, set in white gold and diamond pave. As Blanchett walked the red carpet and accepted her award the opals were broadcast around the world, bringing worldwide exposure to our national gemstone.
Coffey firmly believes that despite mass attitude, high quality opals hold their appeal in the Australian jewellery market.
“Top quality blue/green gem opals always light up the eyes of an Australian but then cost comes into play,” he explains.
Yet reservations about opals seem restricted to Australia, with many overseas countries experiencing high demands for the unique gemstone.
GARY’S GUIDE TO OPALS
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Brilliance in any gem is what is most desired.
RAREST COLOUR: Opal red
RAREST PATTERN: Harlequin
“Internationals have always been the largest consumer of opal. North America, Europe and the UK have been our strongest clientele. In the past, prior to the economy collapse, Japan were big buyers. Today China are very keen on top quality gem black opals which is forcing the prices north,” says Coffey.
As the Creative and Managing Director of Giulian’s, Coffey is an expert at crafting fine jewellery with opals. He has been working with the gemstone for over 20 years and knows how to create designs that are a world away from the typical tourist trends.
“Classic designs always work. Our clients tend to make the comment that our pieces are very different from the normal, most of which is manufactured in China.”
“Pendants have always seemed to be the most popular and then rings. As each opal is unique, matching for earrings is always a difficult task.”
When it comes to creating stunning jewellery pieces, Coffey doesn’t shy from pairing different gems together for a spectacular outcome.
“I love all gems and enjoy incorporating other gems along with opal; it’s not the easiest stone to work with due to its uniqueness.”
“Of course diamonds work well with any coloured gem to highlight the contrast, lately I have been using a lot of Tourmaline which also has a wide variety of colours and it just depends on how I feel on the day. All coloured golds can be used white, yellow, rose and even green.”