When talking about our history in the opal business, talk invariably goes to another family with an even longer opal association. E. Gregory Sherman was started by Ernie Sherman in 1896 when he first went to White Cliffs, one of the first opal fields discovered. Ernie was an opal buyer and, showing true entrepreneurial spirit, built a great business currently run by the third generation – Peter Sherman.
In between came Greg Sherman, Peter’s dad and Ernie’s son. Greg was still working in the office when I started in the business and was a big part of the industry. An admirer painstakingly carved this bust of Greg from boulder opal – not a bad likeness, I say!
Peter recently passed on some anecdotes, and I thought I’d share this one with you.
“I remember my father telling me how cunning my Grandfather had to be at times to buy the best parcels of opal available in the late 1930s and early ’40s. Apparently, if the station master at Port Augusta saw my Grandfather on the train going to the South Australian fields, he would quickly phone another buyer and inform him. This enabled the other buyer to travel to the fields to beat him to the parcel. This also enabled the station master to make a nice little “spotter’s fee” on the side. To overcome this, my Granddad would change into women’s clothing on the train before pulling into the station at Port Augusta, then back into his gentleman’s attire after the train had pulled out. It certainly had them stumped for a while as they couldn’t figure out how he got there and bought the parcel without the station master seeing him!”