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Articles from INDUSTRY ASSOCIATIONS (259 Articles), GEMSTONES - LOOSE (254 Articles), OPALS - LOOSE (21 Articles)

Geologists are questioning whether Australian opal qualifies as a Global Heritage Stone Resource
Geologists are questioning whether Australian opal qualifies as a Global Heritage Stone Resource

Aussie opal considered for world stage

Australian opal is currently at the centre of a debate as to whether it should receive international recognition as a heritage stone.

Dr Barry Cooper raised the subject in a recent presentation to the 2015 European Geosciences Union General Assembly on behalf of the International Union of Geological Sciences’ Heritage Stone Task Group (HSTG).

Specifically, the HSTG secretary general questioned if the gemstone should be labelled a Global Heritage Stone Resource (GHSR). GHSR is an internationally recognised designation that was initially intended for natural stone that had attained cultural significance and widespread use in art and architecture.

Dr Barry Cooper, Heritage Stone Task Group secretary general
Dr Barry Cooper, Heritage Stone Task Group secretary general

“Immediately Australian precious opal satisfies several GHSR criteria, including historic use for more than 50 years and wide-ranging utilisation for prestige jewellery around the world,” Cooper’s presentation abstract read.

“It is also recognised as a cultural icon, including association with national identity in Australia as it is legally defined as Australia’s ‘national gemstone’ as well as being the ‘gemstone emblem’ for the state of South Australia.”

However, Cooper also acknowledged various reasons why opal should not be accepted, the foremost of which was the fact that the GHSR designation had originally been intended for building stones rather than gemstones.

“It may be argued that opal is also a mineral, not a stone or rock, however the precious quality of opal results from mineral impurities/crystal irregularities and specimens of boulder opal are best regarded as rock,” his paper noted.

Cooper added that some other gemstones would never gain GHSR status due to the level of manufacturing or processing involved in the production, which could lead to the loss of a gemstone’s natural qualities.

“Some of my colleagues are up in arms,” Cooper told BBC News. “Where’s the limit? If you ask me, I’d say stones like diamonds and sapphires are far too manufactured. But stones like opal are not only jewellery gemstones – they can also be used in sculpture and mosaics. They broach across into art and that gives them a deeper cultural significance. The crux is that there is probably some value in them being designated.”

At the time of publication, opal had not been officially nominated to the HSTG board for GHSR status, with Cooper telling Jeweller that discussion was underway on whether a separate designation category for ornamental stones and gemstones would be a more appropriate course of action.

Opal inspires light show

In other opal news, the Jewellers Association of Australia (JAA) has announced its support for an upcoming light exhibit that will utilise opal images donated by macrophotography specialist Robert Smith and opal expert and author Len Cram.

One of the opal images donated by Robert Smith
One of the opal images donated by Robert Smith

The OPALessence (play.with.colour) art installation will project the light sequences that appear in opal – particularly black opal found in Lightning Ridge – onto a sandstone surface located along Sydney Harbour.

The installation, of which the JAA is one of the sponsors, will form part of Vivid Sydney, an annual 18-day public festival that features creative industry forums, music and lighting installations.

“Our support of OPALessence (play.with.colour) not only presents a great opportunity to celebrate the visual beauty of Australia’s national gemstone, opal, but also for the JAA to assist our industry’s opal sector by creating greater awareness of the gem – especially given that opals are an Australian point of difference in the international jewellery market,” JAA executive director Amanda Hunter explained.

The OPALessence (play.with.colour) art installation will be on show each evening from Friday 22 May to Monday 8 June.

More reading
Aussie opal demand soars in past year
Opal market improves locally and internationally

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