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Darren Jack

Darren Jack of Australian Outback Opals (image supplied)
Darren Jack of Australian Outback Opals (image supplied)

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.

Australian Outback Opals (image supplied)
Australian Outback Opals (image supplied)

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.

Darren with Justin Lang from TV program Outback Opal Hunters (image supplied)
Darren with Justin Lang from TV program Outback Opal Hunters (image supplied)

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.

Darren at Australian Outback Opals (image supplied)
Darren at Australian Outback Opals (image supplied)

Australian Outback Opals

Fortitude Brewing Company

Why you need to take a day trip to Mount Tamborine

Curtis Falls image by Queensland

So we’re allowed to venture up to 150 kilometres away but we live on the Gold Coast so we already live in paradise. We’re also very keen for an adventure and to see something a little bit different than what we’ve been looking at for the past two months. What are we to do?

How about a little day trip (or spend the whole weekend if you wish) to Mount Tamborine? An absolutely stunning spot that’s only about 45 minutes away and offers more good times than you can probably jam into just one day honestly.

Let’s discuss. The drive itself is lovely and relaxing, winding up the mountain into the lush greenery and watching the city recede behind you. Once there, you’ll find yourself in a sweet little mountaintop village, surrounded by rainforest and on chillier days, with a low fog descending from above.

Now there are so many things to do once you get there, starting with tea and scones obviously. The Gallery Café has long been a favourite with an impressive array of teas (we’re quite partial to the Devonshire variety) plus of course, some warm, fluffy, freshly baked scones to kick things off. If it’s a bit on the nippy side up there, you can snuggle by the fireplace and not even venture outside.

Lemon Lovers Gelato (image supplied)
Lemon Lovers Gelato (image supplied)

You should though because you’re next stop is one of the many rainforest walks around the place including the Curtis Falls Walk (a fave) which yes has a waterfall at the end and is just a little 2km round trip. The Sandy Creek Circuit is also a beauty with views out over the Scenic Rim and also at a not-too-taxing 2.6km round trip.

Once you’ve sweated a bit, pop over to Lemon Lovers Gelato (across the road from the entrance to Curtis Falls) for a refreshing treat – they have over 20 flavours to choose from – and if you’re in a treat yo’self mood, Australian Outback Opals is right there filled with sparkly goodies too. How good are opals.

Right, so now you might like to wander up and down The Gallery Walk in the village, there are lots of quirky shops to peek into including fashion, jewellery, arts and crafts, produce, cellar door outlets, chocolate, fudge and cafes. All the best things.

One absolute must-visit is Granny Mac’s Famous Fudges because not only can you take home some of the yummiest fudge in the world, in pretty much any flavour you can think of, you can also stock up on an array of your favourite lollies (including some you forgot existed) for the trip home.

For a late lunch you need to head to Cedar Creek Estate where you can grab a picnic basket and set up on the lawn. For just $85, you’ll get an antipasto plate, a cheese plate, salads and warm dishes, muffins and chocolate and a basket and throw rug that you can take home. Enjoy all that while overlooking the stunning surrounds and that’s pretty much the most relaxing time there is.

Once you’re done there, head to Fortitude Brewing for some locally brewed, takeaway beers to enjoy once you get back home and right next door you’ll find Witches Chase Cheese who offer a huge variety of delicious goodness (including French and Italian flavours) you’ll absolutely want to stock up on. If wine is more your thing, pop over to Witches Falls Winery to grab a few bottles to take home.

Hopefully you went on a big enough stroll to not feel too full because that’s a lot of eating and drinking. Our fave. Finish the day off by watching one of the most magical sunsets you’ll ever see from Rotary Lookout. Perfection

Of course you can stay overnight on Mount Tamborine and find plenty more fun things to fill your time but well worth a day trip if that’s all you have.

Happy getting away from home for a bit.

Words by Kirra Smith

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