Opal becomes a darling of the fashion world as buyers eye ethically mined gemstones
One of Australia's most iconic gems is becoming a darling of the global fashion world.
Opals are making their way into the creations of both established and up-and-coming designers, and one central Queensland jeweller is taking advantage of the trend.
Ian Bone, from Capricorn Gems, packed up an assortment of gems, including boulder opals, sapphires and zircon, and jetted off to London to attend Fashion Week 2019.
Apart from displaying some of the pieces at events, Mr Bone was offering attendees a masterclass on the story behind the cultivation of the gems.
"I wanted to do a presentation on the gemstones regarding how they are extracted, mined and cut," he said.
"We want to get the gems out to the world and we believe this is the first time any jewellery brand from central Queensland has displayed gems in London."
Geoscience Australia said opals were first discovered in the late 1800s, but they did not find favour with European markets until the gem's value increased during the 1900s.
In the 1930s, Australia became the world's biggest producer of opals, and remained so today.
"Central Queensland gems are second to none," Mr Bone said.
"Our boulder opals in particular can only be found in western Queensland with sapphires being well known internationally as high in quality."
Besides wooing designers and potential buyers with deep blue sapphires and speckled opals, Mr Bone was riding another trend in the industry — ethically mined gemstones.
"It's a movement that is taking effect in London and the UK, with the message to consumers being they need to hold the jewellery industry accountable in regard to where a product has been mined."
Another industry insider who shared Mr Bone's appreciation for Australian gems is Maria Doulton, editor in chief at The Jewellery Editor, an online magazine based in the UK featuring high-end jewellery.
"There is a big interest in opals and, in fact, it is one of the strongest trends over the past five years," Ms Doulton said.
"This mysterious gem has once again found the spotlight thanks to appearing in both high jewellery creations to more fashion-forward gems by up-and-coming designers."
"The appeal of the uniqueness of each opal fuels creativity and individuality, two sentiments currently strong in the world of fashion," she said.
"Colour sapphires are also having a stellar moment as the traditional trio of diamonds, rubies and blue sapphires reach stratospheric prices, while the lesser known greens, pinks and yellows are being re-discovered."
She agreed with Mr Bone's sentiments that buyers and consumers wanted to know they were purchasing gemstones that were ethically sourced.
"Jewellers who can guarantee clear supply chains and meet standards of ethics and sustainability are definitely on the right track, as the next generation of jewellery buyers will expect this of every jeweller," Ms Doulton said.
Queensland is home to gems, not just coal
Mr Bone acknowledged that Queensland's gem industry could be overshadowed by another business with bigger players.
"Gem cultivations is sort of an industry that flies under the radar most of the time because a lot of time is spent talking about the coal industry," Mr Bone said.
"Hopefully at the end of the day, I can add a little bit to the economic development of the communities in central Queensland."
This article was originally published on ABC News