“Boulder opals offer so much variety, from intense reds and oranges mixed with the golds and purples, to solid luminescent purples, greens, and lavender,” designer Katherine Jetter tells me, giddily, her Australian accent positively twinkling. She continues by saying that, as a designer, she appreciates “that they are married to their ironstone host rock, so they can be used in jewelry where more durable stones are needed, for wearabilty,” such as in the spectacular rings and pendants she creates, in her Santa Fe studio.
The rarest form of opal, boulder opal (sometimes referred to as matrix opal) is mined in a small, 250 square mile area of Western Queensland, in Australia; where it is found embedded in the voids and fissures of ironstone boulders – thus its name. Like most other opals, boulder opal is a hydrated form of silica, and can be comprised of up to 20% water. Because they are found in free-form slabs and shapes, boulder opals in jewelry are usually cut into low-domes or flat cabochons; and are invariably unique.
Boulder opal first blipped on my radar at Couture 2013, at Wynn Las Vegas, and their popularity has increased steadily, ever since; with various artists citing their own reasons for using this rare mineral. For Arun Bohra of Arunashi, it’s “the enormous opportunity to use inlay techniques;” while Pamela Huizenga looks upon each boulder opal she uses in her eponymous collection as a treasure hunt, stating “I love the journey of finding the opal’s fire, hidden within the matrix of the stone.”
As with all opals, there is a whole bunch of mystical hoodoo associated with boulder opals. The official birthstone of October, they are thought to channel a projective energy benefiting all chakras; and to contain a pure energy associated with cleaning and strengthening one’s aura. They are considered an aid in finding true love and alleviating depression (though I’d imagine the former helps with the latter). Furthermore, boulder opals are credited with easing cold and flu symptoms. Now, I’m not suggesting that you should forgo your flu-shot, in favor of wearing a boulder opal; but hedging your bets and doing both? Well, it certainly couldn’t hurt.
Get into it!
CREDITS: (clockwise from top left)
Syna – OOAK “Indian Head” pendant featuring a carved boulder opal (106.00cts) set in 18k gold with champagne diamonds (3.5cts) – $25,000
Arunashi – Titanium necklace set with rose-cut diamonds (17.44cts), fancy colored diamonds (9.08cts), and sapphires (1.07cts), featuring a pendant of boulder opal (40.66cts), diamonds (3.18cts) and sapphires (5.64cts) – $194,500
Pamela Huizenga – 2.5” long 18k gold earrings featuring boulder opal (48.90cts), with blue zircon (5.47cts), sapphires (2.14cts), and diamonds (0.38cts)
Sylva & Cie – Hand-carved boulder opal “Hamsa” pendant, set in 18k gold, with faceted diamonds (1.90cts) and rough diamonds (1.78cts) – $18,625
Emil Weis – 18k gold pendant featuring a fine-quality boulder opal (29.90cts) embellished with 62 diamonds (0.71cts)
Cartier – L'Odyssée de Cartier platinum necklace, featuring a boulder opal, set with a cushion-cut emerald (9.28cts), brown diamonds and brilliant-cut diamonds.
Tamsen Z – Dual-row necklace featuring boulder opal beads and faceted brown diamond beads
Patrick Mohs – Handmade 21.5” “Islands” necklace of 18k gold featuring a Koroit opal (61.50cts), three tsavorite garnets (0.06cts), and two round diamonds (D/VS/0.03cts) – $12,000
K Brunini – Large Twig cuff in sterling silver, featuring a boulder opal with burnt orange diamonds (0.50cts) – $5,500
Lydia Courteille – Carved boulder opal sea horse (35.40cts), color-graduated fancy colored sapphires (4.22cts) and diamonds (0.30cts), set in a brooch of 18k gold – $19,850
Katherine Jetter – A stacked trio of “Pyramid” rings featuring asymmetrical boulder opals set in 20k gold – $11,200-14,000 each
Kimberly McDonald – 18k gold multi-finger ring featuring boulder opals (4.22cts) framed by diamonds (1.26cts) – $13,230
Pamela Froman – OOAK “Opal Arabesque” earrings featuring a pair of Australian blue-green boulder opals (30.40cts) set in 18k ‘crushed’ gold in s-scrolls, with diamonds (0.42cts) – $13,200