Information and history of opals plus a gallery of opals used in antique and vintage brooches. Opal is one of the most fascinating gemstones due to it’s rich play of colours. The name comes from the Indian Sanskrit word ‘upala’ for precious stone. They are divided into three groups; the opalescent precious opals, the yellow-red fire opals and the common opals. The most precious opals are mined in Australia, the U.S. and Mexico. Black opal is the most valuable and desired form. Reference:
Kernowcraft A 19th Century opal and diamond pendant/brooch
of ornate openwork design, centering an oval-shaped opal, measuring approximately 13.1 x 9.9mm, set throughout with single, rose and old European-cut diamonds, accented by pear-shaped cabochon opals; estimated total diamond weight: 7.70 carats; mounted in silver-topped 18k gold; length: 3in. Sold for US$ 8,125 (£ 6,006) inc. premium at Bonhams in 2018 Opal cameo of a profile head of a helmeted warrior (Minerva?) set in enamelled gold with a border of dots and fretwork pattern in white and blue enamel, flanked by silver leaves set with diamonds. Marked on the reverse.In the original case. Attributed to: Wilhelm Schmidt (1845-1938) biography
1900 (circa) A CHARMING BLACK OPAL, MULTI-GEM AND DIAMOND BIRD BROOCH, BY CARTIER
Designed as a bird perched on a polished gold branch, with a black opal body, diamond-set head with oval-cut ruby eye, and calibré-cut sapphire, emerald and ruby crest, 2 1/2 ins., mounted in gold
Signed Cartier, no. 112414 Sold for USD 100,000 at Christies in 2017 Antique Silver, Gold, Opal and Diamond Sunburst Pendant-Brooch
One round cabochon opal ap. 10.0 mm., 92 old-mine cut diamonds ap. 3.00 cts., small rose-cut diamonds, c. 1890, brooch fitting detachable, ap. 7.8 dwts. Opal: light blue background with green, faint red and single flash of purple, translucent, good polish. Diamonds: H-I-VS, several SI. Well-made. Diameter 1 7/8 inches. Sold for $2,125 (includes buyer’s premium) at Doyle New York in 2018 A gem-set bee brooch. Of openwork design, the oval and circular opal cabochon body, with rose-cut diamond surround and articulated wings, to the circular sapphire eyes and articulated head. Length 2.9cms. Overall condition good. Surface scratches/wear in keeping with general age and wear.
Total weight 7.2gms, electronically tests as silver and gold plate.
Diamonds well matched.
Cut and setting of rose-cut diamonds prevents total carat weight estimation.
Individual size and setting of diamonds prevents accurate colour and clarity assessment.
Opals are translucent, with good play of colour, ranging from red to violet and are in good condition.
Sapphires are a medium blue hue, fairly well saturated and in good condition. Sold For £460 at Fellows in 2018 Marie Zimmermann black opal brooch Gold, black opal, shattuckite, green tourmalines, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and enamel circa 1920–28 This rectangular brooch is made of yellow gold, set with a large black opal oval cabochon surrounded by an inlaid pattern of shattuckite and blue enamel. A border of faceted tourmalines, emeralds and rubies in individual round, beaded bezels frame the opal, shattuckite and enamel. The reverse of the brooch is enameled in blue, green and orange, with an oval, orange border around the back of the opal and stylized fleur-de-lis at each corner. The hinged gold pin is attached to one short side of the back and a gold c-catch to the other. This brooch was made by American Arts & Crafts jeweler Marie Zimmermann, whose work was admired and celebrated during her lifetime and continues to attract attention today. Born in Brooklyn in 1879 to an upper middle-class Swiss family, Zimmermann studied at the Arts Students League and refined her skills at the Pratt Institute. She was deeply inspired by the art of the past, often visiting the Metropolitan Museum where she frequented the Greek, Egyptian, and Far Eastern galleries. In 1901 she was invited to join the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park, whose members included such artistic luminaries as William Merritt Chase, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Alfred Stieglitz. There she established her studio, and there she remained for the next twenty-five years. Although trained in painting and sculpting, she was primarily a metalworker, who liked to say she made “everything from tiaras to tombstones.” Her work was highly regarded throughout her career, as she diversified from her early work in jewelry into vases, tablewares, candlesticks, architectural elements and stained glass windows. She exhibited widely, and her work was discussed and illustrated in journals such as “The International Studio and House & Garden”. National recognition brought her commissions from wealthy clients, but she also made objects for her family and friends. This brooch is one of the most extraordinary pieces of jewelry created by Zimmermann. In its combination of precious and semiprecious stones, it is highly original. Contemporary arts and crafts designers rarely employed precious stones, choosing humbler materials with which to work. Here, rubies and sapphires, emeralds, and green tourmalines add a refinement and delicacy to the bold black opal, shattuckite and enamel. Fascinating photographs survive of Dr. Connie M. Guion, a pioneering female physician and friend of Zimmermann’s, wearing this brooch. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gem set, opal and diamond brooch, Gilbert Albert
Set with a gem cluster accented with gold beads and brilliant-cut diamonds, supporting two pear-shaped cabochon opals, signed Gilbert Albert, numbered, maker’s mark. Sold for 1,500 CHF at Sothebys in 2017 Brooch in the form of a heart in gold with opal, green or demantoid garnets and diamonds circa 1875-1900. The heart shape of this jewel is symbolic of love. In addition to hearts and cupids, love could be expressed through many other symbols such as flowers, hands, anchors, knots, musical instruments and nesting birds. © Victoria and Albert Museum