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Snippets 24 December 2008
Fire Queen was reported to be worth £40,000 by the Sydney Mail in January 1930. Charlie Dunstan, who had unearthed Queen of the Earth or Dunstan’s Stone, found another Queen before 1910, also on the Angledool diggings. It is said he sold her to a buyer for a mere £100. The gem changed hands several times before it left Australia in the 1920s for the Paris Exhibition– she could not have been bought for £1000!

Apparently, at some point, an American collector presented Fire Queen to a museum in Chicago. In 2002, yours truly visited the Field Museum and finding no black opals on display, enquired about the famous gemstone’s presence in their collection. The curator could shed no light on the subject.

We know that Australian opal is to be seen around the world in such collections and, just as the Flame Queen found us in 2002, vigilance may reveal other historical ‘gems’ and gemstones when one least expects.

Barbara Moritz

9 December 2008 03:44pm
Snippets 17 December 2008
Flame Queen was a cut and polished black seam opal of 233 carats looking like a poached egg. The unusual gem was found at Bald Hill in 1918 by Jack Phillips, Hegarty & Bradley. Ernie Sherman purchased the gemstone according to his son, Warwick.

There has been varied documentation – Flame Queen was purchased for £85 then sold in the early 1920s for £5000. She was resold for $37,500 to an American, who outbid Prince Alfonso de Bourbon of Austria and the Smithsonian Institute. John Landers, Ridge correspondent of the era, reported that before 1935, Flame Queen was sold for £92 to Allan Harris of Brisbane, who resold to Mr Couples, a bank manager for £500, and the next owner, Mr Norman of Melbourne, had refused a £2000 sale. In 1973, the Flame Queen was bought at Christies auction in Geneva and returned to Australia.

In 2002, the owners, one living in USA and one in England, contacted the Lightning Ridge Historical Society to confirm certain historical details about the Flame Queen. She went up for auction in England but was passed in. During this process, they sent current photos of this unusual gemstone for the local record.

In 2008, the Flame Queen did sell at auction in USA to an undisclosed American buyer but not before Jenni Brammell, project manager of the Australian Opal Centre, put out a call through the media to Australian opal lovers in hopes of bringing the gem back home.

9 December 2008 03:43pm
Snippets 10 December 2008
The poem written about the Pandora Star opal from the Walgett Spectator 7.6.1928 - did this name Light of the World found in November at the Grawin?

Fred Brown

North by West o’er the Great Divide
Where the foothills of sandstone rise,
Where the black soil plains spread far and wide.
There’s a fossil of a bygone age.
And yet perhaps it is something more,
A jewelled path to the Heaven’s door.
Angels have taken some stars from above
And hidden them there as tokens of love.
Opal, the rare and wondrous Gem
Beneath the desert sandstone hid
With all the wiles that are known to men
Seek oft in vain, this elusive gem.
At times I think it was God that hid
This fossil beneath the sandstone bed.
It seems to be so hard to find
This Gem of wondrous beauty.

They try again, and hopes revive
As they sink through the sandstone bed
For the hopes of the miner are ever alive
To the chances that are still ahead.
For this rare and beautiful opal
With its colours so vivid and bold
Will be won from the desert sandstone
Till the light of the world grows cold.

Barbara Moritz
9 December 2008 03:41pm
Snippets 3 December 2008
Light of the World from the Grawin surpassed Dunstan's Stone (Queen of the Earth) in 1928. Oddly, when the Pandora was mined in June 1928, a poem “Black Opal” by Fred Brown appeared near the announcement in the Walgett Spectator. The last line is “Till the light of the world grows cold.”

Had the founders, Stephan (Stevens) and Klein, read this poem and remembered it when they found their big stone in November? It was reported in the Spectator that Snowy Brown cut/polished the 22 ounce stone as is also boasted by his grandchildren. The lump of opal fetched an £1500 offer but in the end, Klein sold his share to Stephan for £200 who sold to Percy Marks for £160 and opened the Grawin bakery about 1930.

In 2001, the late Isabelle 'Terry' Goss Shearer remembered seeing Light of the World when her father took his children down into the mine and they saw the remaining opals in the wall like raisins. She called Light of the World a picture stone – on one side was a woman sitting on a rock holding an umbrella. On the other side was the ocean with flying birds. Sadly, the stone was cut into four pieces to be marketable.

Barbara Moritz

9 December 2008 03:33pm
Snippets 26 November 2008
Pandora Star was a 790 carat light (red on grey) opal found by ex-clown, Jack McNicol, & Fred Bodel in 1928 and Harold Frazer cut it to 590 carat – 10cm x 5cm x 2.5cm – it fit into a 100 Capstan cigarette tin. They had flipped a coin to decide where to dig and Bodel lost, so McNicol was the rightful owner.

Pandora surpassed Dunstan's Stone from 1906 & was found near Charlie's old claim at Angledool field. John Landers reported that McNicol refused ten £100 notes laid out by opal buyer, Hector Jenkins! One story is that the stone went to London and Berlin. In July 1931, the Walgett Spectator said that Sydney jewellers, Taylor & Co, would display the Pandora Star but McNicol still had it in a safe deposit box in Sydney in 1935, and 'might take £1000 now'.

It is written that he was employed on Angledool Station as a groom in the early 1930s and carried the Pandora in his hip pocket held neatly in a 100-cigarette Capstan tin lined with cotton wool. McNicol travelled the district in his horse and sulky and raced the horse at local meets. He may have sold it for about £500 but was back mining on the Angledool diggings in 1935 according to an interview. John Prosper Ralston bought the Pandora for an unknown amount after WWII. In 1965, the stone was auctioned for £6200.

Barbara Moritz
9 December 2008 03:30pm