Opal Producers of Australia Limited (O.P.A.L.), have just unveiled their new GDA technology, which will help revolutionise the way we look at opals. The GDA, Gemmological Digital Analyser, is the world’s first device to objectively analyse and grade the opal gemstone based on a number of factors including colour, clarity, carat, character and cut.
The groundbreaking news was presented to over 70 delegates and members of the National Council of Jewellery Valuers and the inaugural NCJV forum in Darling Harbour on the 30th August 2009 by Dr Leanne Bischof, Mathematical Sciences, CSIRO and Kayt Primmer, Director O.P.A.L..
This was only 5 years after the establishment of O.P.A.L, conceived by a group of miners and industry consultants passionate about the potential of the Australian opal industry. The GDA was their plan to ensure a grade quality assurance that would improve confidence in opal trading, thus significantly expanding the Australian Opal Industry.
O.P.A.L contracted CSIRO to carry out image capture analysis and software engineering and now O.P.A.L has incorporated this knowledge into the GDA for improved opal characterisation”. O.P.A.L also contracted Applied Robotics Pty Ltd, a leader in the field of robotics engineering, to design and construct the hardware for the GDA.
The GDA’s complex scientific opal analysis procedure involves having a camera inside a controlled environment to take 871 images of the stone as it rotates on a stage which moves 360 degrees horizontally and tilts 90 degrees vertically. The technology involves robotics, optical light analysis and innovative software programming to analyse the opal’s gemmological characteristics, providing a classification grade.
Dr Leanne Bischof, who helped pioneer this innovative technological advancement, argues that because opals have such a unique range of colour characteristics, this makes them by far the most difficult gemstone to appraise, “A person’s judgment of an opal’s colours, the brightness of those colours and the area each of them covers is a really difficult task, even for a skilled opal assessor. You really need objective image analysis and automation to assist with that”.
In order to ensure that GDA analyses were accurate, an extensive industry survey was carried out, involving the participation of independent and experienced opal industry personnel with a cumulative industry experience of over 1,000 years. There is no system in the world that works as objectively, thoroughly and in such detail as the GDA.
With the present trading scenario, opals are not internationally competitive when compared to other gemstones. The GDA technology is integral to improve the profile, demand and value of opals in international gemstone markets.
Australia produces 95% of the world’s supply of opal and the estimated value of our opal industry is around $50 million a year. In the past, the introduction of an independent grading system has immensely benefited other Australian commodities like wheat, coal and gold. With the advent of this new technology, it is hoped that the opal industry will follow in these footsteps and thrive.
“We wanted to create an objective grading system that would improve the demand for opals and value of the Australian Opal industry. We can improve outcomes for all stakeholders in the industry and lift the consumer confidence in an independently-graded Australian opal, which we will brand as Opallia,” Peter Sutton, director of O.P.A.L, said. The GDA system will be a significant improvement over the inconsistent results of subjective evaluations.
By increasing the value and profile of opal internationally, this will breathe new life into outback towns and communities, and reposition Australia’s National Gemstone on the world stage. The GDA technology will mean all participants in the opal industry will all get a chance to enjoy the financial and investment rewards for the Australian economy.
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