The du Pont family, one of the most prominent American families, descend from French nobility having emigrated to the United States in 1800. Initially establishing a gun-powder manufactory which has become a giant in the chemicals industry and one of the world’s most successful companies. Various members of the family managed DuPont corporation well into the twentieth century and still retain substantial ownership. In 1967 the 43 carat ‘Sydney Queen’ and two other exceptional pear shaped Black Opals were sold by celebrity jeweller Raymond C. Yard to the du Pont family. Fifth generation family member Samuel Hallock du Pont (1901-1974) was so thrilled by these rare gemstones he had to have the lot and later commissioned several Opal jewels by Yard.
Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970), the greatest burlesque queen of all time collected 19th century paintings, furniture and jewellery. Lee owned a stunning Opal-laden ‘Aztec’ necklace by Tiffany. Her second husband William Alexander Kirkland gave her an equally remarkable Mexican fire Opal bracelet for her 40th birthday on January 9 1954. These two stunning Opal jewels by Tiffany were cornerstones of the collection of a lady who put the 'tease' into 'striptease'. An accomplished actress, author and playwright, whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.
....the lady who put the "tease" into "striptease"!
Barbara Hutton (1912-1979) married seven times, including several aristocrats, a Prince and actor Cary Grant. She passed away with very little money in her estate, however the socialite granddaughter heiress of Frank Woolworth, founder of Woolworths, had retained most of her remarkable collection of jewellery rich in fine gemstones including Opals and stylish designs which represented not only her wealth but her appreciation for beauty. Barbara was a great client of Cartier, she was noted by friends and jewellers as being extremely knowledgeable having spent hours holding, studying and admiring each piece she had collected.
ONE OF TWO STRANDS OF PEARLS IN THE HUTTON COLLECTION, BOTH WERE SUPPLIED AND SET WITH BLACK OPAL PENDANT ENHANCERS BY CARTIER.
Walter Liberace (1919-1987) the legendary showman whose camp performances once made him a household name earned a staggering $55,000 a week for his piano playing in the 1950's. An extravagant dresser Liberace would be dripping in jewels during his concerts and TV appearances. Opal was a favourite if not a fetish of the world's highest-paid keyboard artist. Liberace's opal collection was amazing, a testament to early bling, it several opal rings including an opal the size of a baby's fist, his 'Piano Performance Ring' and a huge gem crystal Opal pinky. Liberace is reputed to have worn a magnificent chunk of Queensland Boulder Matrix Opal, set with six diamonds representing the Southern Cross, at the opening of the Sydney Opera House in 1973.
Doris Duke (1912–1993) With apologies to Clint Eastwood, the American heiress is the original "million-dollar baby". The only daughter of tobacco and energy magnate, James Buchanan Duke who passed away when Doris was 13. She became one of the richest and most independent young women in the world. An avid horticulturalist, art collector and philanthropist, she was extremely well travelled and spoke nine languages. She was married twice, to James Cromwell and the Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa. Her company was sought by the likes of Errol Flynn, Truman Capote, Elvis Presley, and Jackie O. Although she was a savvy businesswoman and eventually donated upwards of $400 million to charities, she was lavish when it came to couture and jewellery - which she loved. At six feet tall, with wavy blonde hair, a pronounced jaw, and piercing blue eyes, she was a designer's dream. Doris' taste in jewellery was interesting and unusual, she continued to buy jewels up until her death. Within her vast collection were several items of Opal jewellery including an Opal ring. In 1969, using her own stones, she ordered an Opal bead necklace and matching earrings from David Webb. Doris has been portrayed in a TV mini-series starring Lauren Bacall and a film Bernard & Doris, starring Susan Sarandon. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation continues to support social, cultural and health-related programs today.
Lady Mary Stewart, (1916-2014) was born in Sunderland England and began writing at the age of 3. Mary graduated with a double degree in English and French from the University of Durham. There she lectured in English literature before she married her husband, Frederick Stewart, a Scottish Geology lecturer who was knighted in 1974. After settling in Edinburgh Mary began her successful writing career. Her most famous novels, the Merlin trilogy are set in the time of King Arthur - The Last Enchantment, The Hollow Hills, and The Crystal Cave. The latter was a number one bestseller for weeks in 1970. Lady Stewart made a habit of buying a new piece of jewellery every time she produced a new book. Her collection was built with a keen eye and a love of beautiful things including Opals. Lady Mary Stewart wore a necklace made from opal beads and rock crystal as well as an antique opal-and-diamond crescent brooch. A romantic suspense novelist, Mary was in her own words, a "born storyteller" with a strong interest in the history of Roman Britain and whose characters freely quote Shakespeare.
In modern times perhaps no other culture has coveted Opals as the Japanese have, in the 1990’s they paid the highest prices on record for Black and Boulder Opals, as much as $15,000 per carat wholesale. In Japan, Opals are a well known and a much loved gemstone. The word has been naturalised into the Japanese language as ‘Oparu’ with a long drawn out second syllable conferring honour and affection on these marvellous gemstones.
Takeshi Oyama (1950-2007), Také to his mates, built the largest ever Opal trading corporation Bentine from scratch. At its height Bentine employed over 250 people in Australia and Japan and turned-over $100m per annum, putting it in the top 50 private Australian companies for several years. Také-san loved Opal and was instrumental in marketing Opal to the Japanese and in the development of Japanese tourism in Australia. Také had a big heart, a courageous spirit, with the uncanny ability to bridge the cultural divide. He also had a deep appreciation of and great respect for the indigenous culture of Australia. Much loved and missed by his family, friends and admirers. RIP
The King's Opal Ring....
Elvis Presley - (1935-1977) The' King of Rock and Roll' wore this chunky 1970's 14k gold ring featuring a solid Crystal Opal cabochon surrounded by 1.25ct of diamonds. Originally purchased by Elvis at Thunderbird Jewelers in Las Vegas during the early 1970's, the 'King' wore his Opal ring both on and off stage. A color photograph shows Elvis wearing the ring on his pinkie finger whilst on stage at the Las Vegas Hilton in July of 1974, the King was donning a straw hat with a banner reading "Elvis for President."
Not the first time Opal has captured the heart of a King!!!
Dr. Archie Kalokerinos (1927-2012) the author of In Search of Opal and Australian Precious Opal and an internationally acclaimed authority on Opal. Awarded the Australian Medal of Merit in 1978 for 'outstanding scientific research'. Kalokerinos authored a book with profound orthomolecular medicinal implications entitled Every Second Child, as well as many scientific papers. In 2000 he was awarded the title Greek Australian of the Century by the Melbourne-based Greek newspaper Neos Kosmos. Archie held controversial opinions on a number of medical issues. He supported and was endorsed by Nobel Peace Laureate Linus Pauling; As many deadly diseases result from overproduction of free radicals, Kalokerinos discovered and demonstrated they can be prevented or cured with Vitamin C, often necessarily administered intravenously in high doses. Kalokerinos was an Honorary Medical Advisor for Aboriginal Health of which he had long been a champion.
Laurence Hope (born 1927) grew up in Sydney, he began painting at an early age and by the age of five displayed maturity beyond his years. The Australian artist is best known for his Lover, Dreamers and Isolates paintings which explored themes of solitude, introspection and frailty. Charles Blackman was a childhood friend, reaquainted as young adults the two lived, travelled and painted together in the mid 1940’s. After travelling widely across Europe, Hope moved to London in 1963 where he has resided ever since. There he met up with expatriate friends - Charles Blackman, Barbara Blackman, John Perceval, Arthur Boyd and Barry Humphries. In 1969 Hope played a gangster alongside Germaine Greer in the Philippe Mora film Trouble in Melopolis.
In 1970 Laurence Hope composed a photograph of himself pouring over an Opal with Andy Warhol (1928-1987) at a reception in Houses of Parliament in London. Laurence Hope was showing the American Pop artist the Opal pendant he wears to this day.
“WARHOL FELL IN LOVE WITH IT, NOW COLLECTS THEM.”
In 1977 his exhibition Opal the Rainbow Gem at the ICA in London featured photos of the gemstone taken through a microscope. Hope is well represented in public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, Queensland Art Gallery, Heide Museum of Modern Art and Queensland University Art Museum.
The legendary Kenny Rogers, Country & Western Singer-Superstar, is an avid Opal collector.
US Media mogul and founder of CNN, Ted Turner famously gave actress Jane Fonda a massive Black Opal engagement ring by Tiffany in 1990.According to Tiffany Beverly Hills' Peter Schneirla the oval Black Opal, set in 18-carat yellow gold between two round diamonds, was given to Fonda on her birthday, Dec. 21.
They have each been married thrice now!
Opal is Jane Fonda's favourite gemstone.
Divas & Stars of the screen are devoted fans of Opal & 24 carat yellow gold jewellery by Gurhan Orhan: Brad Pitt bought an Opal suite for Jennifer Aniston in 1994.
Singer Sheryl Crowe has two Opal rings by Gurhan who has developed a cult celebrity following for his classic style with a contemporary edge.
During her pregnancy actress Gwyneth Paltrow wore a large old Chanel Opal ring on her right hand and on her left the engagement ring her rock star husband Chris Martin lead singer of the band Coldplay gave her.
Victoire de Castellane, zany creative director of Dior Fine Jewelry, prefers huge coloured stones that make a statement instead of diamonds. She sports a satellite-dish-size Opal ring. Among her illustrious ancestors are Counts of Provence, Knights of the First Crusade, French ambassadors to Constantinople and Archbishops. Her grandmother was Sylvia Hennessy of the Cognac fortune whose best friend was Barbara Hutton . "One day my mother took me to see Barbara. She was at the end of her life but she still looked fabulous in a caftan and big jewels. I was just transfixed.” Taken from Harpers Bazaar interview by Jamie Huckbody.
“I am crazy about Australian Opals. They look artificial but are completely natural. You get every colour in one stone; that’s economic, non? And the colours are so fluorescent; they’re very strange, almost like a rainbow.” When told that Australians are generally prone to cringing at opals she is shocked. “If they don’t want them, please give them to me. I’ll do an exchange. I’ll have a big chunk of it.”
Di Morrisey is an acclaimed Australian author who has written 20 books in as many years. Her latest, The Opal Desert, was released on October 25th 2011, to coincide with the month of Opal - Official Birthstone for October. The story of three women from different generations with unresolved issues in their lives who meet in the fictitious NSW town of Opal Lake. The stunning book cover is fitting portrayal by the iconic Lightning Ridge artist John Murray. Morrissey loves Australia and its treasures, she is a true advocate for the National Gemstone which she wears proudly and profusely.
When Avatar star Sam Worthington’s date, Natalie Mark, wore a pair of Bunda Opal earrings to the 2010 Oscars, the gemstone was declared in vogue. The amazing 'Varvara' earrings are huge Boulder Opal splits, making a bold statement on the red carpet at the 82nd Academy Awards.