We are back home after our Oz trip. We visited Sydney, Melbourne, and Cairns, but the majority of our time was spent doing business and mining in Lightning Ridge and in boulder opal country, Quilpie.
Some of the mining areas we visited at Lightning Ridge were: The Coochran, Dead Bird Mulga’s Rush, Carters Rushes, the Lightning Ridge proper mining area, the thriving metropolis of Cumborah, the Grawin, Sheepyards, Glengarry, and Wyoming, etc. We saw the “Pub in the Scrub,” just down from Ray and Judy’s Store, and best of all, the Bowling Club at the Ridge. Opal mining is hard work; we went underground — 70 feet no less — to see it for ourselves and learned just how expensive it is to mine opal.Another highlight was a visit with LenCram, the famed author of several books on opal; saw much of his latest book — and saw how he makes opal. The final secret of this process, he said, will be released posthumously. He’s a great guy; it was a very interesting visit. We have volume II of his books . Currently, we stock his Commemorative on Lightning Ridge and hisBeautiful Opal books.
On the road we saw “millions” of kangaroos, evidently none too bright, as they seem to just jump out in front of cars. We noted that outback vehicles were equipped with “roo-bumpers” (ourword).
We drove nine hours from Lightning Ridge to see the oldest, largest, and most profitable mine in Australia near Quilpie. Unfortunately we were too early for the Quilpie Boulder Opal Festival, but saw all of Quilpie, which has two streets and two motels — really big! The next morning we drove another fourteen and a half hours to Sydney.
As we travelled from city to city, we learned that in the Australian opal market: 75 percent of opal shown is boulder opal, 20 percent, Lightning Ridge black opal, and about 5 percent is the crystal and white base opal. That is the reverse of the numbers in the USA and I explain why there is such ignorance about boulder and black opal here. About all we see here is crystal and white base opal. Looks like the USA is behind the rest of the opal-loving world.
We spent a great deal of time in OZ negotiating a contract that promises to produce a first for opal lovers in the USA. We can’t say more now, but if all goes according to plan, we will make an announcement around Tucson show time (February 2014).
While in Lightning Ridge, we bought a parcel of opal that is a real mixed bag — mostly jelly to crystal, with lots of junk — which is typical of field parcels. Call if you’re adventuresome!
We look forward to hearing from you and filling your opal needs,
Tim and Barbara