By: Hillary Packer
We introduced you to Danny and Michelle Hatcher, our suppliers of Lightning Ridge Opal, in part two of our blog series. We also took you deep into the mine and showed you how the miners retrieve this precious opal. Now that we’ve shown you Danny’s world of mining, we are going to let you explore Michelle’s world of processing and cutting the stones!
Never the Same
I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Michelle Hatcher one on one. She flew all the way to JTV’s headquarters in Knoxville, TN from Australia! I could see her passion and excitement for opal as she talked about what it is like to cut and process these stones.
Michelle expressed that she loved her job, because every opal is unique and each one has its own specific color pattern. She said that with each piece of rough, you never know what will be underneath. That makes the job interesting and fun.
Michelle commented that she has always loved gemstones and she said she has always planned to work with opal. She said, “Since I was a little tiny girl, it always intrigued me. It always fascinated me. I spent my days as a little girl peering over my dad’s shoulder saying oh, look at the pretty stones!”
Michelle explained that the hardest part about cutting the stones “is when you get disappointed. When something looks really nice in the rough and it doesn’t actually cut like a finished stone.” She said that there is some rough that looks like it will cut into a beautiful stone, but can then just disinigrate into your hand. The disappointment in that makes the job hard.
On the flip side she noted, “The most enjoyable part is the opposite. When you rub something down from the piece of rough and you find a spectacular opal inside, then it’s exciting.”
What’s Your Technique?
Michelle described that most of the stones they cut are traditional cabochons. This means the gemstone has been shaped and polished as opposed to faceted. This usually results in a convex top with a flat bottom. As far as the shape of the stones, she said, “some of them are free shape, but obviously most are ovals. This is standard cab cutting.”
Another technique she uses is called carving. She uses a dremel, which is a powered rotary tool that can be fitted with a number of different heads or bits. She explained that she takes the piece of rough that might have some inclusions or multiple color bars that are complicated and cleans it up and makes it look pretty!
When it comes to opals, some material is very slow processing for one reason or another. Other material is quite quick to process. Michelle told me that the hardness of opal varies. The harder the opal the longer it takes to process.
Overall, Michelle said that processing and cutting opals is very rewarding job. You never know what you are going to get and that makes the job fun. This time, Michelle and Danny ended up with stones that valued over $700,000! We are so excited to be featuring these stones on air on July 17th at 10p ET. Be sure to tune in! Also be watching Wednesday for part four, the last part in our blog series on Lightning Ridge Opal. We are going to show you how we prepare the opal to go on air at JTV and what it is like to handle these spectacular gems!