The opal is en­joy­ing a re­nais­sance, with jewellers pair­ing the enig­matic gem with other coloured stones to am­plify its nat­u­ral beauty.

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Aus­tralia’s na­tional gem­stone is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a re­nais­sance

Opals are sur­rounded by mys­tery and con­tra­dic­tions. Ro­mans hailed them as the most pow­er­ful of the gems, con­tain­ing all the colours of the spec­trum. Queen Victoria handed them out as royal gifts. Sir Wal­ter Scott wrote a novel that tied them to bad luck, and Aus­tralia pro­duces ex­am­ples so ex­quis­ite that Euro­pean jewellers of the 19th cen­tury did not be­lieve they were real.

No mat­ter the fash­ion, how­ever, we al­ways seem to come back to the unique play of colour and light of­fered by the opal. This ever-chang­ing beauty is due to its high wa­ter con­tent (up to 21 per cent) that also makes it one of the softer and most frag­ile min­eral gems.

“The opal is a very po­etic stone,” said Vic­toire de Castel­lane, artis­tic di­rec­tor of Dior Joail­lerie, upon the re­lease of the Dior et d’Opales high-jew­ellery col­lec­tion. “When I look at an opal, I feel like I’m see­ing the Earth from afar: the oceans, the ar­chi­pel­a­gos and the reflections of stars on ocean waves.”

The 21st-cen­tury rise of the opal sees stand­out stones com­bined with coloured gems, each one en­hanc­ing the nat­u­ral rain­bow within, as in Alessio Boschi’s state­ment neck­lace. Aus­tralian opals, par­tic­u­larly black opals, re­main among the most prized gem­stones, while Mex­i­can ‘fire’ and milky-blue Ethiopian Welo opals are used to dra­matic ef­fect.

Aus­tralia’s na­tional gem­stone is per­haps most deftly brought to life by Mar­got McKin­ney. Each bold, freeform opal is am­pli­fied by other stones – sap­phires, tsa­vorites, di­a­monds – re­flect­ing just some of the colours within. Opal Minded sim­i­larly uses the gem­stones of Jun­dah, Queens­land, to tell a story of the land­scape.

Ar­pita Navlakha of Su­tra Jew­els sees her coun­try’s na­tive pea­cock in the opal’s blue and green, while Hong Kong- based British de­signer Tayma Page Al­lies uses opals to rep­re­sent the Great Bar­rier Reef in her ‘Float­ing Is­lands’ col­lec­tion, each one ringed by a beach of white di­a­monds. dior.com • alessio-boschi.com •

mar­gotm­ck­in­ney.com • opal­minded.com • su­tra­jew­els.com • tay­ma­jew­ellery.com

Mar­got McKin­ney opal and baroque South Sea pearl ear­rings, POA

Mar­got McKin­ney Light­ning Ridge opal cock­tail ring with sap­phires, tsa­vorites and di­a­monds, POA

Alessio Boschi opal and tsa­vorite brio­lette neck­lace, POA

Dior Haute Joail­lerie ‘Fasci­nante’ opal ring with pink gold and di­a­monds, POA

Su­tra Jew­els sap­phire and opal mar­quise ring with rose-cut di­a­monds, POA

Tayma bush­fire opal ear­rings set with di­a­monds and rubel­lites, RRP AU$21,000

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