by michael ferguson

Whether you’re a professional or amateur cutter, whether you buy your own gear or cut for others, you cannot put a stone to the wheel without thinking :

Someone is going to wear this stone !
Who will wear it ?
What interesting people will see it ?

So it is, that the most wonderful thing, when cutting a stone, is imagining the life it will have !

The quality of the stone of course will have a lot to do with the places it will go, and to some degree, the color and type. So I have some ideas to start with, and I have a rich imagination…

The very best of my stones are sent to a single jewelry store, on one of the three top gem “streets” in the world, the type that caters to the richest class.

So I can let my imagination soar, even though I seldom get any real feedback as to exactly who buys these lovely things, and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever attend any fete where they might be worn.

Of course I sometimes imagine that they go into a vault, and only on a whim get to show themselves, and perhaps some of them are really never properly appreciated.

But ever so often there comes an opportunity to put the opal
… in just the right place !!

Thus it came to pass on a visit to my uncle a few weeks ago…

Several years ago I had given my aunt a very nice piece of Andamooka treated matrix, and she had had it set as a pendant and was apparently very happy with it.

But what I did not know, was that she was keeping a secret from me!

On visiting Australia during the early 80s, she had bought for herself two gorgeous opals !! **

So I persisted, and was finally able to draw out of her, the reason why she had not told me that she had bought herself these two stones. She was afraid that I would tell her that she had paid too much !!

Oh my, what to do ? I KNEW that she loved jewelry, and was quite pleased that she obviously liked the piece of Andamooka matrix that I gave her, but I had NO idea that she liked the opal so much !! (And indeed the pieces she had bought for herself were superb!)

Then, at this same visit, we learned that my uncle and aunt were soon to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary!

AT LAST… a wonderful opportunity to put the opal in just the right place, at just the right time !!

I had seen that my aunt had already set her two stones into a ring and a pendant, and was obviously missing a pair of earrings to go with them.

So I began to search, for just the right rough material, and of course I turned to the very best source for such things : perhaps the greatest of all opal dealers, Murray Willis.

I knew that the two stones my aunt had bought were a kind of opal known as “Mintubi Plate “, and Murray immediately sent me a few of the most incredible rough stones that were a perfect match in color and quality of the stones that my aunt had chosen for herself.

Soon I had 4 extremely lovely rough stones, which could yield cuts that would be perhaps 10 x 14mm, just the right size for a great pair of earrings.

After “peeking” into them, I could see that two of them were very well matched, and set to work cutting them into the target oval shapes…

At the same time, I realized that maybe, just maybe my uncle had not yet decided on what he would give to his wife of 60 years on such an occasion.

So again I turn to Murray with the idea, and again Murray returns with the perfect answer : “Opal Beads” !

Murray sent a fantastic necklace and bracelet set, that simply boiled with color !

I sent them on to my uncle; both the beads and the earring stones.

Obviously born of a clever blood line, my uncle concluded that the beads were the perfect gift, and set about to get his local jeweler to prepare the beads and earrings for the great day.

WHOA ! Now think about this a moment … I am also married and my wife has been all this time watching and thinking that WE have an anniversary coming up too …

And SHE LOVES these opals that I’m preparing for my aunt !

OK, I’m not totally dense. I see the writing on the wall and secretly begin to prepare a pair of earrings for her from the two stones I have left…

Well, it turns out that one of the original 4 stones had a crack, right down the middle of the stone, which made it impossible to get an earring out of it.

So I ordered another stone from the same original parcel. AND isn’t it great to deal with an opal dealer who just might have enough of the original parcel that I could ask for another “matching” stone !!!

And so it was, that I was able to turn out another pair of 10 x 14mm earring stones for my wife…being very careful of course not to insult her with stones of lesser quality !

Well, the anniversaries came and the opal was a success all around. My aunt is obviously very happy with her completed ensemble, and my wife is thrilled to have something to wear with that sleek Dolche & Gabanna little black dress  !

Ahh, but the one who is most pleased at the end of this story, is ME … in that I get to enjoy seeing these pieces adorning two women that I love.

Oh yes, it wouldn’t be a good story if there weren’t some pictures to go along with it.
So click HERE and note that there are two pages of pictures, and that you can click on any of them to see an enlarged version. I think you’ll be pleased. **

* OH : I guess I should mention : There is a myth that it is bad luck to buy an opal for yourself. But this is total hogwash !! The opal is such a deeply personal thing that it is the BEST thing to be able to select the opal personally for yourself. It is at best, a crap-shoot to buy an opal for someone else!! (BUT you will always be OK by buying what you think is spectacular).

** Note that the opal beads appear to be pearls at a distance, but on approach, they are transformed into the most fabulous swirls of color that are obviously NOT pearls but rather even more rare : opal beads !!

Murray Willis offers the largest and finest collection of opal beads anywhere !! And note that the earring stones are carefully oriented so that they display their greatest attributes from the angles that they will be viewed.