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History of Opals

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Opals (if they are real, like in the cases of Black, White and Boulder Opals) are made in nature. But what is the history behind Australia’s national gemstone?

From a European perspective, Opals were first discovered in Australia at around 1869 in Listowel Downs, Queensland. We say ‘around’ because that is when it was first recorded. But many Aboriginal Dreamtime stories tell us that the history of Opals date further back. If you want to read more about the Dreamtime stories about Opals, we highly recommend this website.

In these Dreamtime stories, it is believed that Opals were created when the colours of the rainbow touched the earth.

Even though these Opals were somewhat known and sought after by the 1870s, it wasn’t really until the late 1880s that Opals became widely recognised. Tullie Wollaston, alongside Herbert Butterfield and an Aboriginal boy named Tomtit travelled from Adelaide to Queensland to discover more about the Opal. This was back in the 1880s, so imagine making the journey that it would have been to travel over 1000km… in the Australian climate too!

Wollaston returned to Adelaide with some Opal and the other two began their mining venture.

The day after Wollaston’s arrival in Adelaide, he travelled to England to share his discoveries. His attempt at sharing the beauty of Opals was lengthy but with some patience and perseverance, the Hasluck Bros of Hatton Garden agreed to trial the gem at some of the markets in Europe and America.

Soon after, Australian Opals became quite popular in jewellery pieces by brands like Lalique, Tiffany and Co. and Cartier. Wollaston became recognised as the father of the Australian Opal industry.

And with that, Opals soon became one of the most popular and valuable gemstones of the world.

Later, on the 27th of July, 1993, the Governor-General, the Hon Bill Hayden AC, proclaimed the Opal as Australia’s national gemstone.

To find out more about Australian Opals, click here.

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