I love opals, but I am particularly fond of the boulder opals that I specialize in. There are a variety of different types of opals with white opal, black opal and boulder opal being the best known of a somewhat larger grouping. Boulder opal is opal that is naturally backed or surrounded by the boulder, or rock, material that it is found in. One of the reasons I like it so much is that the darker background (usually the rock, or boulder, material it is found in is brown) brings the colors of the opal up beautifully. You also can get pieces that have seams of opal running through larger pieces of boulder than can be quite unusual. We once owned a piece like that which had a rather striking opal part that looked exactly like a portrait of Bette Davis, and which we ultimately sold to a guy who had a thing for Bette Davis.
One of the other things I always liked about boulder opal was that I used to be able to get, on a regular basis, what are known splits. These are pieces of boulder that have a seam of opal running through them and when they are cut along the opal seam, you end up with a matching pair of stones. Usually these were cut in a way that left the peaks and valleys in the material matching so you could actually fit the two pieces together if you put the opal parts next to each other. The colors also usually matched better than material that was simply cut up into pairs because it was the same seam of opal for both halves.
Unfortunately, a number of years ago, the availability of boulder opal splits dropped tremendously because most of the better opal material was being bought up by the Asian market which has always had an appreciation for (and the money for) finer stones and opals are big sellers over there. For the last 4-5 years it has been a struggle to find any better material in splits, no matter what the size. It reached the point where I had been forced to simply buy bigger pieces of boulder opal and have it recut into pairs. The problem with this, however, is that as with most colored stones, colors often read more distinctly, and stronger, in larger sized stones. Opals, with the vast variation in the color of each piece, is particularly like this and sometimes when we would cut the larger pieces down into smaller pairs, they didn't read nearly as strongly as the one larger piece did. This often not only meant that they weren't as pretty but also that I couldn't charge as much for all the pairs together as I would have for the larger piece (the price of which was not reduced to me so this was somewhat problematic).
So finding pairs of opals has been a growing issue for me, along with my top quality diamonds. However, I have just come into a number of pairs of opals through a variety of means. I saw my opal dealer about a month ago and I did find one larger piece that we were able to cut into two very attractive stones. Then a few weeks ago I was bemoaning the lack of boulder opal splits to a dealer I work with who never carries opals and he brought out a box of stones he was trying to sell for a jeweler who had retired recently. Lo and behold there was a beautiful pair of splits that I bought and had recut into slightly smaller pieces.
Yesterday however, my regular opal dealer called and told me he had managed to find 3 pairs of beautiful splits that a fellow dealer had and he wanted to know if I wanted to look at them (knowing full well that I was so desperate that not only would I look at them but it was a pretty sure thing I would buy them). They showed up today and I did buy all three pairs. None of them are large and they are all pretty but one of the pairs is absolutely smokin' hot! They have some beautiful flashes of orangey red, greens, blues and they are absolutely unique. I plan on setting them up into earrings in the next few days and if you'd like to get first shot at them, check in with me and see if they're done yet. By the way the larger stones I had recut are also in process and will be part of my comet series of earrings (well some people call them bugs---they're like the ones at the top of the page).
Opals are notoriously hard to photograph as the colors often float across the top and are routinely different depending on the angle you are viewing them from but I'll try to get some more pictures posted of the new goods as soon as they are done.