Opal cutting takes a lot of expertise and you cannot learn overnight. It is very time consuming, takes many hours to produce the perfect stone, or cabochon as they are known. There are various stages of cutting and polishing. Depending on the shape, thickness and depth of the colour bar. This can be extremely thin, therefore, great care is needed as not to cut or over polish the gem. It can be really disappointing after polishing to your heart’s content and then have the colour simply disappear! These days a series of grinding wheels of different grits are used. In my case 6 different diamond bonded wheels are used followed by final 14,000, 40,000 and 100,000 grits on three polishing pads. Water or lubricant is used to stop the opal overheating which can ruin the finish or cause cracking. The opals are finally recessed to enable easy fitting into jewellery settings.
I now purchase most of my rough material direct from the miners in Lightning Ridge/Grawin and White Cliffs in New South Wales and the South Australian Coober Pedy/Andamooka areas. I have a great respect for miners. They work often for little reward under very hot and dusty conditions. Only occasionally will they find opal as it is becoming increasingly harder to find. A miner can spend years trying to find that perfect gem. The cost of fuel and equipment, and increased regulations has meant that many have moved out of the industry. This has in turn increased the price for rough opal and will continue to do in the future. As a result finished opals will continue to rise and will become an even greater investment!