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Cutting opal mined in Lightning Ridge

Ever wanted to know what really goes into mining, finding, and cutting opal?

In last week’s episode, we went underground in Lightning Ridge on the hunt for color. This week, watch as we take the opal nobby we found to the cutting wheel. Will it be a top gem?

Justin always starts cutting opal the same way; by not cutting it at all.

In fact, he says the best way to cut an opal is to take your time analysing the stone before going near the cutting wheel.

There are some questions you should ask yourself when considering the best outcome for any gem; is it clean? Are there any sand inclusions? Which direction should I cut to get the best stone?

Justin takes a torch (flashlight) to the nobby and discovers that some of the bar is clean and some is not. He needs to be cautious when cutting to ensure he gets the best outcome.

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Let’s take it to the cutting wheel

It doesn’t take long for Justin to see that this opal nobby has got a lot of sand inclusions. These inclusions are causing havoc, dipping into the color bar in all directions, eating almost every part of it away.

Unfortunately, this stone can’t be cut. This can be a devastating feeling after all of the hard work that goes into finding an opal nobby, but Justin decided that it’s an important part of the process to share.

You can put the work into mining, the tail-out, finding a nobby, assessing it, and cutting it only to have it be a total flop. Failing is never a nice feeling but with every top gem, there are many heartbreaks, too.

There’s a lesson for anyone who is a cutter, aspires to be, or just loves to learn about opal; sometimes you can do it all right and still have to walk away from a stone. It’s a good learning curve for us all to see how much effort our miners put into finding opal.

We hope that you enjoy this video and appreciate the real process of mining opal.

In this case, would you have cut the gem?

And don’t worry; we’ll be back to cutting some top gems for you soon!