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Published: October 20th 2014
The Opal Beetle, Coober Pedy
There are so many opal shops around Coober Pedy that the shop owners try to come up with a gimmick to attract the attention of potential customers, like this Opal painted Beetle at the entrance.
The wind today started as a strong Northerly then at about 10.45am swung around to the South. At 11.42am we had a really fierce gust, which Barry checked on his phone and found was 70kph. It raised even more dust than we’d been having for the last few days causing clouds of red dirt to pour down the road behind us and almost completely hiding the hills at the edge of town, which could see clearly – usually! The pigeons that normally come down foraging
had to stay on the ground, or they were being blown sideways and getting nowhere fast. We stayed in the van until the worst of the dust storm was over and then went to fill up the ute at the cheapest place in to. It was originallwn, we were told, Opal Miners Enterprises (OME). They were correct – it was only $1.63, the cheapest since we left Darwin.
Just up the road from OME was another place I’d heard was good, Faye’s Underground House. It had originally been excavated in 1923 as a garage for the Post Truck. When the postie retired in 1966 he sold it to Faye Nayler, who hand cut
The Dust Storm, Coober Pedy
The wind was really strong all day but this gust was more than 70 kph and raised a huge amount of dust that rolled down the road and obscured the mullock heaps completely.
two more rooms herself and used the garage as her kitchen, with a few modifications. Later, two more women came to live with her and they extended the home. All told, it took them 10 years to complete. It had shelves just cut into the sandstone walls and even a bed for her little dog, just opposite the end of the bed and at the same height so he could see her when she was asleep without coming onto her bed. The walls weren’t sealed but the current owner, who showed us around, said it wasn’t dusty and that it was always warm in winter and cool in summer. Faye had built a fireplace in the lounge room but it has never been used!
Up at ground level, there was even a large, deep above ground swimming pool that had been the first in town. She noticed that the water was evaporating too quickly and so it covered with a room made of cement blocks. This became the Entertainment Area and included a pool table next to the swimming pool. It was very popular with her friends and neighbours! Faye established the “Opal Cave” business but then
Faye's Underground House
This was her bedroom. She excavated the whole house herself. If you need a book shelf - just dig it out!
sold out and moved to Queensland. She returned for a visit 6 years ago and was thrilled to see everything still as she’d left it, even the furniture which she’d left as it didn’t fit her new home.
Barry chatted with the owner, while I took loads of photos around the rooms. We then thanked him for showing us around and headed for the Opal Beetle, to see if it was open yet. It was. Inside they had some beautiful opals but they were all too pricey for me. The “Not for Sale” huge Matrix Boulder Opals were the best things on show, though, with lots of fire and different colours. Matrix Opal often has to be heat treated in a special solution to create a contrast in the background or “mother” stone allowing the natural colour to shine through better.
Having now seen a few opal shops and compared their prices, I decided I still liked the ring I’d seen in the Underground Art Gallery the best (within my price range, of course) so we dropped in there and I managed to get him to knock off another $20. The silver ring has
Faye's Underground House Pool
This pool was the only part of the house that was above ground. It was the first pool in Coober Pedy and started off outside but Faye decided to build a room around it to keep it clean andan even temperature
four small pieces of solid opal that are full of colour, two mainly bright blue, one that flashes green or red depending on the angle of the light and the last mainly red and blue speckles.
We drove through the top of town afterwards, and noticed Opalios, which we’d seen on a few adverts, so we went inside. I was greeted by a young woman who promptly got her child to give me a small bag of opal mullock to fossick through at home. She also showed me a tray of different semi-precious stones and told me to pick one. I chose a pretty blue Moonstone. Then an older lady, Stella, came over and started showing me trays of rings and pendants. There were a couple I liked but when I tried to bargain with her, she just moved to a cheaper tray of merchandise. There were no discounts happening here! I discovered that this is a real family affair, with the father, Andreas, mining the opals, Stella cutting them and their son George creating the jewellery. They’ve been doing it since 1973 and love it still.
Stella was a very good saleswoman and
This was outside Faye's Underground House
I ended up buying a pendant I had not meant to buy, but did really like. It is a rectangular piece of Boulder Opal (from Winton!) which has the colours of blues and purples arranged to look like a stormy late evening sky. It really looks lovely. I felt extravagant buying it but I’ve worn it nearly every day since and feel really good in it, so it wasn’t wasted.
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