To make that very special piece of creative jewelry it is sometimes best to buy rough and shape the rough opal so you can create an original piece of jewelry
So you want to buy some rough black opal from Lightning Ridge the only place in the world it is found and sought after worldwide a true natural beauty. Cut some black opal and have some fun.
These days more seam opal found rather then Nobbies at Lightning Ridge. Seam opal forms in bands and does not have the dark jet black base but more of a grey black still good to cut but harder to cut a nice cabochon ( dome stone ) which everyone seams to be after , there can be a number of color bars running through the potch with seam opal so very important to pick out the right bar which you want to rub down the piece to , the one you should pick most of the time is the one which has the darkest body tone ( N1 – N9 ) as the color will be the brightest as it sits on the darkest part of the potch
.if the colors are week and washy and the potch is light grayish there is not much chance of a nice stone , remember sometimes with seam opal the bars will not run straight around the rough opal but more in a wavy motion this is still good to cut but more work is involved and you most probably will need a good dremel equipment with some of the stones when polishing to bring out the best in the opal .
Seam opal will run vertical angle too compared to the more common horizontal this type will not face good when you cut so keep a eye out for this always a good idea just to rub a small piece down and see how it will face if the bars are running vertical . As with nobby material seam opal can be grey black on the outside and darker as you rub it down so keep a eye out for this as the parcel mite not look that interesting in the rough but when you rub it down it will change very quickly this is rare though but still worth remembering .
If the colors bars look watery in the rough the quality of the stone you cut will be the same they will not have that intense fire to the stone but more of a sleepy fire, there is noting wrong with this but mite not be what you though it would turn out and the value of the your opal will be less.
Nobby black opal rough which is superior to the seam opal rough is unfortunately very hard to come across as the mines which produced rough opal nobby material in the Coocoran opal fields have nearly all been worked out in the boom times of the late 80 s to early 90s to date the Coocoran opal fields produced the best quality opal at lightning ridge but who knows where the next big find will be today miners are taking enormous risks with there own life’s as they are going back to these old time mines and slowly taking out the Pillars from the back of the Ballroom as chance there could be good opal left in them but the problem is as the miner is going along from the back of the mine to the front there are less and less pillars holding the roof up and the mine could very easily collapse this is how strong the lure of black opal is , reason the nobby material is superior to seam as the opal is found in nodule look like form by this natural formation there is more chance you will be able to cut a nice cabochon oval round stone as the shape of the opal is very important and is much easier to sell if it’s a nice commercial shape and not a freeform shape which more acceptable in boulder opal.
In a good nobby opal rough you should be able to see the color all the way around in the piece as soon its been rubbed a little or sniped with a pair of nips if your very lucky the nobby will have a black centre and the gem color will be sitting on top the jet black potch then you will have a real gem black opal in your hand remember the outside can still be very illusive with a grey potch which cover the black centre they mite not look anything special from the outside but as soon as you rub the piece a little things will change very quickly and great care should immediately kick in so you do not accidently grind away thousands of dollars worth of opal there could still be problems with sand inclusion so the size of the nobby does not necessary mean you will be able to cut a large stone but the right ingredients are there for a real gem.
Sand is the biggest enemy of the Nobbies on many occasion the color bar can be running all the way around and you think you have a great stone but the sand will beat you with some of it right in the middle which you can not see till its to late, I feel it would be fair to say less then 5 % of colored Nobbies would have a red centre there for a premium price is always paid for them as most opal dealers would take the risk and purchase the opal straight away
When looking at rough parcel if you can look at the piece dry and then wet the parcel to get a idea of how it will look when cut and polished , keep the price of the rough in mind as you can not except gem quality rough black opal full of color in a cheap parcel . although when there is plenty of black rough opal around and the miner is bringing out a lot of opal from there claim mistakes can and have been done as things will be missed but of course this is not deliberate but you can be lucky and come along a parcel like this but this is very rear to come across these days. In the old days many fortunes where lost and made this way ….
You can also purchase opal in the rub stage this is where the miner has rub down to a pre form shape and you can see what sort size and color the stone will produce and less risk of making mistakes this way is a safer way of buying opal from the miner .
Keep in mind even the most experienced opal dealers will from time to time make mistakes and things will not turn out the way you though when purchase the opal in the rough as no two opal parcels are the same but with patience experience and know how you should not be to far from the mark .
There are a great selection of opal books available one of the most popular is Len Cram very good idea to purchase one or two books as you can get a real feel and love of the opal just by looking at the pictures and reading the many old time opal miners life journey about there experience on the opal fields. In the early days of the opal industry miners where only after opal with red fire and I would say large quantity of beautiful blue green opal was unfortunately disregarded in today’s value would run in a very large fortune.
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