American Collections

on . Posted in Opal Collectors Items

usaWhen Black Opal was discovered in 1903 nothing like it had been seen before....the Lightning Ridge gems were so strikingly beautiful they took the world by surprise. By the 1930's famous Opals had captured the hearts and minds of the world's richest nation and her most wealthy citizens....


The ‘Fire Queen’ or 'Dunstan’s Stone' was Lightning Ridge’s first famous gem, found in 1906 by Charlie Dunstan at the Angledool diggings north of Lightning Ridge. Weighing in at about 6.5 oz. or nearly 900 carats, this was the largest gem nobby found to date. After being originally sold for a mere £100, the stone changed hands several times, each new buyer finding it difficult to sell. Black Opal was still not well understood by the market and the industry still only in its early infancy.

jdrockerfellerThe Jeweller & Watchmaker, 10 October 1949, gave the following description:

“The 'Fire Queen', is of such rare loveliness as to be beautiful beyond description. It’s like a ripe pear with golden velvety sheen. As the light catches it, it becomes a living ball of fire, flashing red, gold, orange, a glorious peacock blue, touched with tinges of flame. The finder sold it for £100, and it was eventually bought by the late J.D. Rockefeller for £75,000, a record for an Opal.”


This Opal 'Parrot' is carved from a single piece of white Opal and perched in a miniature yellow gold cage. Residing in a private US collection it is one of the best examples of Fabergé's skillful lapidary workmanship.

Active Image
faberge_cigarette_case Made by the St. Petersburg workmasters of Fabergé around the turn of the twentieth century. This translucent white jade cigarette case is bordered with an enamelled gold rim and features an Opal cameo of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorvna and her daughters Olga and Tatiana. The Opal cameo is enclosed in a frame of diamond leaf design and the case is operated by a pearl thumb-piece. This magnificent heirloom was provided to an American collection by prominent New York art dealers Hammer Galleries.
faberge_1908-1917_LR San Francisco collector and jewellery authority John Traina owns the world's largest collection of Fabergé cigarette cases and accessories. Amongst this famous collection  is a silver gold-mounted souvenir case (pictured on left), the cover applied with a spider decorated with rose-cut diamonds, emeralds and a large Opal for the body, it is further ornamented by numerous symbols. Also in the collection (pictured right) is a gunmetal case with two diamond-set Opals forming side-by-side hearts and a gold-crowned  monogram. Both of these cases sport cabochon sapphire thumbpieces. faberge_gunmetal_opal_hearts_LR



Tiffany of New York was one of the first jewellers to use Black Opals which were discovered at Lightning Ridge in 1902, Louis Comfort Tiffany’s dragonfly brooch was first shown at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. It resides in the Tiffany Permanent Collection.


A Pocketful of Gems...

The ‘Black Prince’ aka. 'Harlequin Prince' a famous Black Opal of over 180 carats, was found in 1915 at the Phone Line field in Lightning Ridge by Ted Brown and Tom Urwin, it was procured in England by the Museum of Natural History in New York. where it is on display along with a 272 carat dark-grey Opal.

the_pride_of_australia_-_224_carats.jpgThe ‘Pride of Australia’ aka.'Red Emperor' (pictured) was found in the same pocket as the ‘Black Prince’ and 7 other big named stones. It is a double sided gem of 225 carats which went to the Forest Lawn Museum USA to whose president it was sold in 1954 for a reputed ₤150,000.

The same Phone Line patch also produced the Empress of Australia a 110 carat flag patterned gem and the largest stone of all was the 'Flamingo' Opal weighing in at a whopping quarter of a pound or 800 carats. In 1919 Ernie Sherman paid brothers-in-law Urwin and Brown £2000, then a record price for four Black Opals. Sherman's sister Bertha named the stones.




Paulding Farnham was design director for Tiffany & Co. from 1891 until 1902. Farnham was responsible for producing a series of exquisite silverware items in a range of cultural styles:

Celtic motifs characterise the 'Viking' vase (pictured left) studded with numerous Crystal Opal cabochons and orbs and decorated with enamels. Designed for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo.

Based on Navajo pottery this vase (pictured right) is embellished with Boulder Opals, turquoise and freshwater pearls. It was designed for the 1900 Paris Exposition.

A silver and ebony punch bowl with swinging handles is set with four Black Opals in the central band around its body. Completed in late 1902 it was commissioned by a client who had admired the 'Viking' vase on show in Buffalo.

An amazing silver and copper Aztec Indian bowl dates to August 31, 1905. Featuring Boulder Opal matrix carved and inlaid into generous swinging handles.(pictured bottom right)



tiffany_pendant.jpgThis Louis Comfort Tiffany Indian-style pendant of crystal opals, sapphires, topazes, pearls, demantoid garnets and chrysoberyl was made about 1915. This spectacular piece is now on display in the Hall of Gems at New York’s American Museum of History.

An Inkwell in the Art Nouveau mode, silver holloware featuring champlevé enamel and cabochon Boulder Opals. Made by Marcus & Company, New York, after 1900. In the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art having been donated by friends of the museum in 1976.

Active Image



Active Image The 'Flame Queen' a renowned 263.18 carat Lightning Ridge Black Opal found in 1915 by miners Jack Philips, Walter Bradley and “Irish” Joe Hegarty. The most unusual color pattern of this opal is best described as having the appearance of a fried egg—gemologically known as the 'eye-of-opal' effect—created when opal infills a cavity. The 'Flame Queen' is the best known gem of this type. Polished as a broad, pear-shaped buff top cabochon, its flashes change from vivid red to fiery bronze when viewed from different angles and in different light. flamequeen.jpg


Active Image Raymond C Yard was a favourite jeweller to celebrities and America's high society. In 1958 he sold his company to his employees. The young proprietors at Yard Inc cultivated new clients such as the du Pont and the Firestone families. Yard made significant new stock acquisitions in the 1960's with the purchase of the 43 carat 'Sydney Queen' and two other pear shaped Black Opals. In 1967 the three exceptional stones were sold to the du Pont family. The Black Opal ring (pictured) is set in platinum with diamonds and was commissioned in 1970 by Samuel Hallock du Pont.


harrywinston.jpgThis 'Peacock' brooch sporting a 30.92 carat Black Opal was designed by Carnevale and Koumrouyan for Harry Winston, New York. Completed in 1967, this fantastic jewel is set in gold and platinum and is accentuated with rubies, sapphires and emeralds.


The 'Peacock' together with the 318.44 carat ‘Zale' or 'Dark Jubilee' Opal (supplied by Tibor Shelley and donated by Zales Jewellery Corporation) are part of the extensive collection held at the Smithsonian Institute Museum in Washington. They are accompanied by a 345 carat Opal with intense play of fire against a white background and a spectacular Black Opal of 58.8 carats. Active Image

Active ImageThis magnificent Black Opal ring also resides at the Smithsonian.

More recently in the 1980’s a stone weighing 574.09 carats was added to the Los Angeles Museum collection.



Master Jeweller Henri Vever’s 'La Bretonne' pendant is amongst the most iconic of the Art Nouveau designs created at the turn of the century; it was exhibited at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Parisand earned Vever the Grand Prix award for design.

The Bretons of France are an ethnic minority who migrated from south western Britain to north western France in the 4th to the 6th century, they speak Breton and are considered one of the six Celtic nations. The characteristic white bonnets or coiffes worn by Breton women were a popular subject for writers and artists during the Romantic period.



Crafted in enamel and inlaid with blue-green Opals, highlighted by diamonds, and amethysts, the pendant bears the delicate profile of a young girl wearing the traditional female headdress of Brittany, set against the background of a flowering bloom.

Sold by Christies on October 21 2009 at RockerfellerCenter in New York for $554,400, on an estimate of $400,000-600,000.