COOBER PEDY News & Events


To the Editor,

How is the jewellery trade a mining concern?

In googling Coober Pedy Times website today, we noted a catchy headline on another site: “Tourists duped in fake opal scam“.   An interesting observation was that the claim was not instigated by any tourists! 

The lack of clarity as to why a bed and breakfast owner with a large synthetic opal in his own possession was putting forward the complaint is rather disconcerting but then backed up as in hand, although  insurmountable, by a local mining group.

A representative of  a mining alliance in Coober Pedy came onto a local radio chat show during the morning appearing to defend the claim, which his association has sought assistance on from the federal member Rowan Ramsey!

Can’t appropriate departments handle a couple of villians without civillians screaming into outerspace and in their stupidity damage the reputation of respectable traders?  This very question brings me to wonder how it became a mining related problem?

Heresay has been presented as unsupported ‘fact’  which appears  totally unrelated to the complaining parties due to the absence of real complainants.  The lack of professionalism in several sectors, assigns a question as to  the   integrity involved in placing the wider jewellery community in a defamatory light and creating insecurity in Australian tourism.

The federal member for the area seems to be following up on a claim by a mining association, which hasn’t referenced evidence of tourists in it’s awkward divulgence of being out of it’s league.  The minister in question stated that it was illegal. What is illegal?  We didn’t hear from any victims. I suggest that there may be some extra homework to do a little closer to the source.

If it’s illegal and the headline is correct, then it’s simply a police matter, is it not?

As a regular traveller who enjoys Coober Pedy and fossicks through opal shops for occasional gifts, I have not encountered this problem except by hearing from one retailer only, who vehemently insisted they did not sell synthetic opal.  It hadn’t occcured to me that they did.

In striking up a conversation with this trader, he referenced fellow traders (by name)  stating they were in fact carrying dubious stock.  In his own defence we were shown a sign which stated that this business didn’t sell synthetic opal. This notice appeared to indicate  the problem was rampant and we should shop with this store only.
We  visited a larger complex identified by the smaller opal trader and queried the existence of fake opal.  The larger trader spoke openly about synthetic opal and backed up what the mining association representative said on the chat back radio show today.  This being, that synthetic opal is indeed manufactured overseas and that manufacturers of some watches or cheaper items can sometimes include synthetic opal, which  budget travellers have created a demand for across the world.  It was explained that this needs to be identified as in cubic zirconias against diamonds – simple.
We were then informed of the existence of triplets and doublets which we had heard of and how they too are not a solid stone but have a similar appearance in containing some opal, designed  for the purchaser who is a little light on funds.  

We also learned of the process used in bringing out colour in Andamooka matrix stones.  Brochures on the differences are well published. The larger trader did not appear to have a shortage of authentic opal  mined in Coober Pedy.  Without doubt the quality and the quantity was there, along with the willingness to educate the consumer.  The larger trader was in fact quite gracious in not retaliating to the trading practice of his smaller competitor.

Complaints from (absent) victims/tourists in the damning headlines, of synthetic opal purchases have not been referenced as calling foul on the industry, which indicates some duplicity in this news. 

A competitive trading  problem could be viewed as the opportune factor in this wonky story.

 If I were the politician involved in investigating this matter, my first port of call would be a meeting with parties associated with the trading of opal as this simply doesn’t appear to be a mining problem.

Yours faithfully,
M Chenault