A $15K gem black opal cut from rough

Do you know those days when everything just seems to work? As if the odds are stacked in your favor and things easily slide into place like puzzle pieces. Today was one of those days.

I like to call these days at the cutting wheel “easy cuts” because of how smoothly things run. It feels like the opal and I have an agreement; you show me some color and I’ll show you my cutting skills.

Not every day at the wheel is like this (in fact, most aren’t) so I was really happy to have caught it all to share with you.

In this weeks video, watch me cut a beautiful rough piece from the Wyoming opal field that turns into an incredible gem black opal.

Assessing the opal

Much like approaching a hangry teenager about finishing their chores before they sit down to demolish a bowl of gyoza; it’s always important to assess the situation first.

This rough has a thick color bar and black potch that could potentially cut a gem black opal. The color bar also glows bright amber when I hold a torch up to it; another good sign!

There is some good color on top but my gut feeling is that it’ll get better closer to the potch. This risk may not pay off as some opal fields, like Jag Hill, produce opal with the best color on top. Cutters can grind away a rare orange thinking it’ll get better and be left with more blue or green. Let’s hope this isn’t one of those!

We won’t know whether this color will get better or whether the opal will turn black until we start cutting. These are two risks we’ve got to take to uncover a gem!

Let’s start cutting

We start off on a good foot; the first glimpse I get shows me that the color gets more intense closer to the potch. I work my way around the edge of the opal to uncover more color and decide on the shape. The more I cut, the clearer I can see that the color and pattern are more intense towards the potch. I’m feeling good!

Unlike the totally sand shot opal I cut last week, this is turning into a cutters dream. There is a pinfire pattern emerging on top and, as I cut one of the corners, I see the potch turn black. I’ve decided to take away the parts with lighter windows as these devalue the gem and cut it into my signature JT oval cut.

I am lost for words. This gem has got color on color, beautiful pattern, a high dome, and it’s a black opal.

If I finish with a gem over 10 carats after polishing and smoothing the back… I will do something that will definitely embarrass my son. But that’s payback for eating all of my gyoza.

Valuing the gem

I finish up polishing and the excitement kicks in! Let’s get out the scales and… can I get a drum roll, please?

10.13 carats — god I’m good! This gem black opal is an N3 with a Brightness of 4 and will fetch at least $1,000 per carat. That’s a lot of fish tacos.

This opal has been one of the easiest and most enjoyable gems I’ve ever cut. I hope you enjoyed watching!

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