The Learning Table | Opals


For us, sharing our insight into and experiences of the jewellery industry comes from a genuine passion for our craft, and a joy in sharing this knowledge with others. 

This is why we have created our new journal series, The Learning Table. Our bespoke team often sit down together at the "creative table" in the office to discuss design ideas, current projects and share their thoughts and skills with each other. Now, it’s your turn to have a seat at the table as Natalie, Em, Sophie and Erin share what they have learnt over the years in and amongst the ever-evolving and fascinating world of jewellery. 

This week we sat down with Em to talk all things opals as we are so often asked about the origin of these unique stones, and whether they can be used as the feature stone in an engagement ring. Keep reading to find out more...


If Em could tell you just one thing about opals, it would be that it takes 5-6 million years to form an opal just 1cm in size. As Em explained, “opals are made up of approx. 20% water, and are formed when an area of really dry, arid land (aka Central Australia) experiences a sudden and unusual burst of heavy rainfall. This rain seeps into the ground and the silica from the water builds up in the cracks in the earth and this is what forms the opals. This is why opals are always found running in streaks and ribbons through bedrock”.

With their unique origin, these incredible stones are defined by the colours and patterns which are completely magical and all made by Mother Nature. Em explains this as the reason we love working with opals, specifically the ones we source at NMJ. The opals that we specifically use are also uniquely Australian which makes them even more special. They come from some really iconic mines such as Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge, meaning they are not only extremely high-quality stones but they also have a very rich historical provenance.

“You could stare at an opal everyday for the rest of your life and see something different each time. Every stone is so completely unique and filled with tiny details and flashes of colour. Some look like galaxies, others like tropical coral reefs. This quality is what makes them so valuable, and it’s very exciting to be able to work with each and every one that we have pass through the workshop”.

Em believes their uniqueness is a strong draw card for a lot of people who seek opal engagement rings, and always explains to her clients that you can find examples of opals being used in lots of antique jewellery which have all stood the test of time. 

“Here at NMJ we don’t readily suggest opals as ideal stones for engagement pieces, as they are very soft and can be easily damaged if the appropriate care is not taken to ensure their longevity.

In saying that, so long as there is awareness of their special care requirements (which we make sure to educate any potential opal-owners of before any commitment), they can be perfectly fine when worn regularly, so we leave it up to our clients to decide if their lifestyle is one that can work in harmony with the needs of a delicate stone such as an opal”.

Feeling inspired to own your very own opal piece? Lately our bespoke team have come across opals they just had to create into something special for our one of a kind collection, click here to shop these exclusive one-off pieces and make one of them yours forever!


PC: @Tealily & @Hanro