Did you know that opal is the official gemstone of October? And as we enter the tenth month of the year, we got to know the man behind Australian Outback Opals, located on Tamborine Mountain. Darren Jack, who has a wealth of knowledge in opals, gave us a bit of an insight into the history of his involvement in the industry and even the process of mining the stunning gem. Read on to find out more!
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
We moved up from Sydney in January 2013.
Tell us a bit about Australian Outback Opals.
Australian Outback Opals is located in the rainforest area on Tamborine Mountain, near Curtis Falls waterfall. I have been cutting opal since 1979 and got the opal bug so have been collecting since then. I travelled to the opal fields at Lightning Ridge as soon as I got my Drivers Licence and would spend most of my holidays there. I am really passionate about opals and I believe that they have the most beautiful colours of all the gemstones. My wife and I opened Australian Outback Opals in July 2016. We have a large range of opals in store, from rough opal, cut stones, and opals set in beautiful jewellery. We also see many old opal jewellery pieces coming into the store that have been handed down the generations, that need a little TLC. We can repolish and reshape the opals in store as needed. We are next door to a great little café and a gelato shop called Lemon Lovers Gelato who make all their gelato, ice cream and sorbets in-store.
What makes opals such an icon of Australia?
Opals are Australia’s National Gemstone, and they say that “Opal is believed to bring Love, Luck and Happiness to both the one who gives and the one who receives”
What is the process of mining an opal?
Opal is found at shallow depths in sedimentary rocks where there has been considerable silica seepage into the cavities and other elements like shells, sea creatures and plants, which become opalised fossils. Gradual loss of water from the silica gel resulted in the hardening of the material and the formation of Opal.
How long does it take (on average) for an opal to be mined through to being ready for sale?
That depends on many things, and every stone is different. Some stones may take a day to turn around, others take a lot longer due to the complexity of the colour patterns. Once an Opal claim has been established with mine shafts etc, successful excavation of opal can take days, months or even years to uncover the hidden gems. Some opal mining claims may not contain any commercial-grade opal and other mining claims might produce millions of dollars in opal.
As a gemstone, what does an opal symbolise?
Opals are an iconic National Gemstone. In mystical circles, opal is considered a stone representing hope, innocence and purity. It has strong connotations of happiness, faithfulness, loyalty and confidence. For those who believe in the healing power of stones, opal may be good for eye infections and diseases, as well as the enhancement of other healing processes.
What is the most popular piece of opal jewellery you sell?
I’d say the most popular piece of jewellery would be rings, both for men and ladies, followed by pendants. We also have a large range of souvenir jewellery which are also very popular. If we don’t have the exact piece in store, we can custom make any piece of opal jewellery, like engagement and wedding rings.
What is your favourite type of opal and why?
Really I love them all, but I would say my favourite would have to be Black Opal from Lightning Ridge, especially Red on Black.
What are your Gold Coast favourites…
Café: Silipo Café, Southport
Coffee spot: Crema Lovers Cafe, Tamborine Mountain
Restaurant: Belvedere Italian Restaurant, Tamborine Mountain
Bar or pub for a drink: Fortitude Brewery, Tamborine Mountain
Hotel: Q1, Surfers Paradise
How do you choose to spend your weekends?
I work most weekends in the shop, as it is the busiest time on the Mountain, and we try to sneak some time off during the week.