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A Necklace of Blue Jelly Opal, circa 1910

In Fine Jewelry > Opal Jewelry > Show & Tell and Fine Jewelry > Art Nouveau Jewelry > Show & Tell.
Opal Jewelry57 of 108Gem Quality Lightning Ridge Black Opal in an 18ct Gold Ring,  probably circa 1930, and made in AustraliaAURORA - an Antique 20ct Gem Quality Solid Black Opal from Lightning Ridge, set in a Modern White Gold and Diamond Necklace
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    Posted 7 years ago

    (117 items)

    The first flourish of Lightning Ridge opal was quite brief, just nine years from 1905 to the outbreak of Word War One in 1914. Then mining virtually ceased as almost 40% of Australian men aged 18 to 44 enlisted in the armed forces, and trade ended with the German gemstone cutting centres.

    These cutting centres in towns like Idar-Oberstein were responsible for processing most of the opal that reached Europe. One of their challenges with White Cliffs and Lightning Ridge opal was to create a commercial product suitable for the commodity end of the market.

    Only a small percentage of opal is gem quality. Lower quality opal without strong play of colour right across the face of the stone was dismissively called "candle-box opal", so called because the miners would fill their empty candle boxes with it, and sell it to buyers for a few shillings a box.

    The German gem dealers and cutters accumulated tons of this material, and then used their cutting skills to maximize the appearance and value of the stones. For years this gave them the stock to create attractive budget priced opals for the jewellery manufacturers of Pforzheim and beyond.

    Some of the better quality pieces produced with this lower grade opal will be immediately recognized by collectors, as they're now quite sought-after.

    One such style is these "spectacle frame" necklaces, made in gold or silver, that were very popular in the Edwardian period. They fitted into the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau fashion of the day, at a significantly lower cost than the high end pieces made by the "Art" jewellers.

    This one's a favourite of ours because of its marvelous blue tinge. We picked it up at a half-price sale (off an already bargain price) from a very exclusive dealer who'd labelled it as moonstone.

    It's actually jelly opal, which is transparent opal without much play of colour. In this case the attraction is not the variety of colour within the stone, it's the lovely blue body colour itself, which makes this a rather striking piece when worn.

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    1. kerry10456 kerry10456, 7 years ago
      Great looking piece. But must say, Thank you for the informative post...learned a few things about the history. As striking as it appears in photos, would venture to agree with closing statement as to the color explosion it must create in real life.
    2. kyratango kyratango, 7 years ago
      Ravishing necklace :-)
      Always surprising that sellers aren't more curious about what they sell...

      I bought a superb pair of natural pearl soufflure hat pins mounted in platinum with rosecut diamonds for costume! For the equivalent of $25 :-)
      Their sale paid for the careful moving of my whole house content!
    3. kiwipaul kiwipaul, 7 years ago
      Hi Kyra, I know you're a great treasure hunter. Good to hear you sometimes let some of your goodies free, and they help to take you to the next place.

      When we've done that we can look back, and fondly remember that piece of treasure that was sacrificed for a special purpose, it helps make the hunting worthwhile.
    4. kyratango kyratango, 7 years ago
      So true, I know too you had a new life begun with the help of great finds sale!
      Even after letting them go, our treasures are still in our souls :-)
    5. Bluboi Bluboi, 7 years ago
      I think I have a necklace like this one. Glad to know more about it! Will you look at this link, Paul?
    6. kiwipaul kiwipaul, 7 years ago
      Hi Bluboi, yes yours is a classic spectacle frame necklace, and especially nice to get one in gold. It seems to me they naturally used better quality opals in the gold ones.

      The stones look to be nicely matched and showing off a lovely aqua blue, which makes me think they are probably good quality White Cliffs opals, it must look striking when worn!
    7. pastaccoutremon pastaccoutremon, 7 years ago
      I hope someone could answer a question. I see a lot of these spectacle frame necklaces on ebay. Some look quite sloppily done and I am curious as to if the style was done more recently too?
    8. kiwipaul kiwipaul, 7 years ago
      Hi pastacoutrmon, I rarely look at opal on eBay because so much of it is synthetic (Gilson) or Welo. If you post links to a couple of pieces I can tell what I think.
    9. Peasejean55 Peasejean55, 7 years ago
      I would be very interested.
    10. pastaccoutremon pastaccoutremon, 7 years ago
      Kiwipaul, thanks so much for your kind offer.

      I don't have one in particular right now so I went on eBay and looked at several pages but did not see any. Usually the auctions I was referring to are for moonstone necklaces. I never trusted them because of the sloppy quality of the construction.

      I will definitely be looking at all of this type necklace (specifically spectacle type)with new eyes after reading your wonderfully informative article!

      Also, I recently have become a fan of opals after taking gemology courses and find the history fascinating!!
    11. pastaccoutremon pastaccoutremon, 7 years ago

      Here is an example of the spectacle type moonstone jewelry I see on eBay. My question was is this type of the same era? There is quite a bit of it being sold on eBay. Mostly necklaces like the opal ones you showed. They seem pretty sloppily done most of the time and that's why I have had my doubts. They are being sold as early century.
    12. kiwipaul kiwipaul, 7 years ago
      Hi pastacoutrmon, sorry for delay in reply, I've been traveling. I'd have to say it is impossible to tell if these (and others) are old or new.

      The method of construction of the old (early 1900's) ones was pretty basic. A simple channel of thin silver wrapped around the stone, cut to size, then soldered together with jump rings added. The stone was popped back in after the soldering was done. Assembling the multiple stones in an item was usually done without soldering closed the jump rings that joined them up.

      Exactly the same method could be used today and there would be no way to tell.

      At least with opal pieces you could say the cost of the Australian opals probably makes it uneconomic to reproduce these, but moonstones are plentiful and cheap, so who knows?
    13. pastaccoutremon pastaccoutremon, 7 years ago

      Thank you so much for your reply!

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