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The Language of Opals

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by Lesley Mitchell (subscribe)
Author/lecturer/Intuitive/Natural Therapist/Artist/Soap-Maker/Chef. eBay stores: stores.ebay.com.au/RenascentCollege and stores.ebay.com.au/RenascentBathBody Webs: www.RenascentCollege.com and www.RenascentBathBody.com.au
Published January 24th 2013
What sort of language is this?
No visit to Australia would be complete without a look at our national gemstone treasure known as opal. So it may make your journey even more interesting to understand the language of opal. Here's a brief look at the terms that are associated with opal and opal mining.

Opal in the rough clay



Agitator
This is a modified cement mixer that is used to wash and tumble opal dirt.

Automatic hoist
This is a machine which is activated from under the ground to pull a bucket up the mineshaft and tip its load of opal dirt – onto a truck. This was invented in Lightning Ridge.

Black opal
This is the most rare and valuable type of opal. Black opal has a dark underlying body colour which provides deeper intensity to the gemstone colour itself. The word black, does not refer to the face of the opal as black opal can come in a rainbow of colours.

Blower
A machine which looks like a huge vacuum cleaner, it is used to suck open dirt from deep underground into a pipe, up the shaft and into a truck.

Some more suggestions where you can purchase opal if you don't have success at finding your own


Bogger
This is a small vehicle that has a scoop on the front which tips.
It is used in some mines to move opal dirt from the face to the mine shaft to a truck.

Boulder Opal
This form of opal is generally found in Queensland. It has a matrix of ironstone or a dark brown sandstone which produces intricate patterns.

Buyer
Someone who purchases opal from miners or other buyers.

Carat
Used to measure opals and other gemstones. One carat equals 1/5 of a gram.

Crystal
this refers to opal that is transparent or translucent. Crystal opal can be very beautiful and it is sometimes used to make doublets or inlaid jewellery.

Digger
This is a hydraulic machine with a digging claw. It is used underground to mine opal.

Doublet
Many opals that are set in jewellery are either doublets or triplets. A doublet is made by fusing a black backing onto a slice of opal. This creates a double layered gemstone, which has an appearance similar to black opal.

Drill
A large piece of machinery used to explore prospective opal bearing ground. It drill holes of 9 inches in diameter which brings earth and rock to the surface to be checked for indication of opal.

Fossil
Most Australian opals originated 110 to 120 million years ago, during the age of dinosaurs. Rare opalised fossil bones, shells, teeth or pine cones are found at Lightning Ridge. Miners sometimes use the word 'fossil' to describe any
opal that has an odd shape, even if it can't be determined which (if any) plant or animal part the opal has replaced.

Nobby
A naturally lump-shaped piece of opal. The nobby form of opal is only found at Lightning Ridge.

Opal Carving
A specialised method of opal cutting which is used to produce uniquely shaped stones and pieces with interesting surfaces.

Opal cutter
Skilled person who cuts polishes the gemstones

Opal Dirt
Claystones in which the opal is found.

Some more suggestions where you can purchase opal if you don't have success at finding your own


Potch
A form of non-precious opal that doesn't contain gem colour. Potch is usually black, grey or white or yellow coloured.

Prop
An upright log used to support the roof of an underground mine. Local cypress pine is preferred for propping mines in this area.

Ratter
A person despised on the opal fields. A thief who steals opals from a mine, an agitator or a pile of tailings.

Rough
Opal that hasn't yet been touched by cutting equipment.

Rub
Opal that has been rubbed by cutting machinery to remove gross impurities and establish a preliminary shape.

Runner
Someone who sells opal to buyers on behalf of the owner/s of the opal, usually on a commission basis.

Amazing opal colours


Seam
A horizontal layer of opal in the ground. Opal is found in seam as well as nobby formation in the Lightning Ridge area.

Triplet
A triplet is similar to a doublet except that the slice of gem opal is very thin, and a third layer - a cap of transparent quartz crystal - is added to the gem.

Windlass
A winch used to haul opal dirt up out of the mine. These days, most miners use an automatic hoist or blower for this purpose.

There are many local stores scattered throughout Australia with the opal den being located in Melbourne, however if you wish to try your luck at finding your own, head to Lightning Ridge, Coober Pedy, White Cliffs or Grawin.

Look at some of my other reviews here by clicking on my profile or try searching weekend notes for these locations for more information.

Here's a list of a few place you may like to try if you can't get to noodling for yourself

Lightning Ridge Opal Mines
www.opals.net.au
175 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC. 3000, Melbourne
(03) 9654 4444

The National Opal Collection
www.nationalopal.com
119 Swanston Street, Melbourne
(03) 9662 3524

Johnston Opals
www.johnstonopals.com.au
124 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
(03) 9650 7434

Cody Opal Australia
www.codyopal.com
804/125-133 Swanston Street, Melbourne
(03) 9654 5533

Abbess Opal Mine
218/2-20 Swanston Street, Melbourne
(03) 9639 2188
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Why? Understanding our national gemstone - opal!
Where: Australia wide
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