Turning your Opal Collection into Jewellery
It is wonderful to have a collection of opals that you have cut and polished. But what is the point if you only look at them occasionally and the rest of the time they sit in a drawer with no one to admire them. Opal is such a unique stone, with no two alike and if you go to the trouble of cutting and polishing them,then surely it is worth while going the next step and setting them in some sort of jewellery.
I was faced with this dilemma having built up a sizeable collection of opals over many years of cutting. Many of the opals were of low quality but there quite a few that were very beautiful and deserved to be on show. I had tried giving some away as gifts but the recipients, having admired them, put them away and probably forgot about them. It is understandable as it can be very expensive to get them set by a professional jeweller
I decided to learn how to set them in silver jewellery myself. This of course is easier said than done. I decided on silver as gold or other precious metals were way beyond my price range and because I would be be too scared I would mess them up if I used them.
I took some lessons in basic silver-smithing learning how to saw, solder and assemble silver into a form of primitive jewellery but I still didn't know how to set stones properly. I took a series of lessons from a professional jeweller and learnt the basics of bezel setting at a considerable cost. I then did what I should have done earlier. I joined a local gem club. Here I found I could do basic and intermediate courses in gem cutting and silver work under the guidance of experienced people and the cost was almost nothing.
Then came many hours of practising including messing things up many times, before I felt I could produce something I was not ashamed of.
I have concentrated on pendants because opal is quite a brittle stone and if placed in rings it can be damaged easily.
I have no great design skills so have adopted the practise of looking at jewellery pieces on the web and simplifying them to such a stage that I think I can make them. It is useless me trying to make fine and detailed work as I will never have the skills
I believe the best jewellery for us beginners is something that is simple and relatively easy to make with no intricate pieces.
The following pictures are of some pieces I have made to make use of the opals I have cut. Some have been given as gifts and a few I have even sold which is great. At least the opals are now out there for people to see and not hidden away.
This piece is a simple design using a black opal from Grawin and adopting a bezel setting with a flattened wire bail.
This second piece is of similar construction using an opal I actually found in the rough on the side of the road at Grawin.