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Marcia Dean’s Opal Serendipity

by | Nov 13, 2017 | Jewelry, Marcia Dean | 3 comments

Jeweler Marcia Dean in her studio

Australian boulder opals are magical, with rich blues and greens and flashing surprises of every color of the rainbow. I had never seen such stones or even imagined that they existed.


A man showed up at my booth at a craft fair in Northampton back in 1981 (my first craft show ever) wearing a backpack shaped like a frog.  He explained that he was an art teacher and had just started experimenting with cutting stones for craft use. Would I like to buy some?  When he took the opals out of his pack, I was captivated on the spot and immediately purchased as many as I could manage.

Boulder opal is found embedded in large boulders of ironstone in Australia. The opal develops within veins and fissures. The ironstone matrix adds to both the durability and the vibrance of color. Gemstones are usually cut to maximize and preserve the precious opal strip rather than to conform to a calibrated form.

In 2008 and 2013 exciting opal deposits were discovered in Ethiopia. They display a more “liquid” looking opalescence and a brilliant color play is present. Many of these opals are “hydrophane” opals and they easily absorb water. This can temporarily change the color and transparency of the opal. As it dries the color is restored completely.
 The opals in the last two photos are all from Ethiopia.

My fascination with opals lives on! Each one is a unique visual pleasure. Each one-of-a-kind shape requires an individual setting to be exactly fabricated to fit around that specific stone.  I use gold, silver, or a combination of the two, to create rings, pendants, and sometimes earrings.