19 Sep

Speakers and Topics

2009 National Opal Symposium speakers are a conglomeration of intriguing industry representatives working in diversified roles throughout the Opal Industry.

Dr Paul ThomasDr Paul Thomas
Department of Chemistry, Materials and Forensic Sciences
University of Technology Sydney

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: Materials Chemistry of Opal

BIOGRAPHY: Dr Thomas received an honours degree in Chemistry from King’s College, London in 1989 before making a transition into materials research at Imperial College, London where he was awarded a PhD in Chemical Engineering in 1993 which provided the basis for a career in materials chemistry research. Since moving to Australia at the end of 1995, he has been employed as a Lecturer, and now Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Forensic Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney, researching structure-property relationships in inorganic materials, in particular, silicates, which has lead to his interest in the investigation, characterisation and understanding of the materials properties of Australian opal.

ABSTRACT: Precious opal is an amorphous hydrous silica with the general formula SiO2.nH2O and is prized for the dancing colours or play-of-colour which is a result of the diffraction of visible light microstructure of ordered arrays of monodispersed silica spheres. Thus, opal has the unusual order hierarchy of disorder at the atomic level while having structural order at up to millimetre length scales. This unusual hierarchy is the focus of the presentation. An overview of the materials chemistry from the colloidal origins of the silica spheres to the microstructure and ‘crystal habit’ of the ordered arrays is discussed. The ‘morphology’ of the silica is also discussed and related to the environment in which the opal is formed.

Ms Pearl EattsMs Pearl Eatts
Traditional Descendent – Pitta-Pitta, Maiawali and Karuwali


BIOGRAPHY: Ms Pearl Eatts (Traditional Descendent – Pitta-Pitta, Maiawali and Karuwali) has developed a strong network and understanding of the Aboriginal communities across the far central and south-west of Queensland and operates as a social and community developer. Ms Eatts is currently active in and collaborates with, Dept Local Govt, Sport & Recreation, Disability Services, Youth and Senior Citizens as a Ministerial Regional Forum Member, an Advisory Panel Member on the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act Review, and an Ambassador for Blue Print for the Bush and a newly elected Member to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Advisory Council. Ms Eatts has attained an Associate Diploma in Behavioural Science, a Bachelors Degree in Community Management and numerous skills development and attainments.


  1. Managing Cultural Heritage under the ILUA.
  2. Our Management Structure
  3. Our Administration and how we run our Operations
  4. Our difficulties with very little money.
  5. Our Objectives and what doors we have opened
  6. Our Culture and Heritage processes.
  7. Our Reconciliation Handling
  8. Our current functions.
  9. Directing the next ILUA.

Mr David HORTONMr David HORTON M.Sc., M.G.S.A., M.A.I.G., M.S.E.G., M.G.A.A.
Managing Director
Opal Horizon Limited

SYMPOSIM TOPIC: The role of public companies in the Australian opal industry – the OpalHorizon Limited experience

BIOGRAPHY: A geologist by profession, David has been active in the exploration industry for over 34 years. He has provided advanced geoscientific research and operational management consultancy services to over 50 Australian and multi-national companies both within Australia and offshore.

He specialises in project and prospect generation and has explored for a wide variety of base and precious metals, industrial minerals and gemstones. David has also worked for, and consulted to, the Queensland State government and is the author of numerous geoscientific publications

In his career he has held several senior management positions including Exploration Manager of Queensland Metals Corporation Limited and Chief Geologist of A.R.I. Ltd. He is considered to be one of the leading researchers on practical aspects of opal genesis and exploration models in Australia. He has served as company representative on the Queensland Resources Council and as an executive member of the Australian Geoscience Council.

David is also a Director of Superior Resources Limited, a company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

ABSTRACT: Opal Horizon Limited was incorporated in 2001 with the aim of securing a pre-eminent position as a leading exploration, mining, processing and wholesaling company for precious opal. In the first few years of existence, the company successfully developed exploration techniques for finding large deposits of precious opal anywhere in Australia.

However, finding opal orebodies turned out to be easy compared to listing an Australian public opal company. This talk will examine the perceptions that the Australian and international broking and financial communities have of the Australian opal industry, why opal has an image problem both at home and abroad and finally it will look at the future of the Australian opal industry.

Patrice Rey
Adriana DutkiewiczDr Patrice Rey and Adriana Dutkiewicz
School of Geosciences
The University of Sydney

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: The Origin of Australian Opal Deposits: Unlocking the Secrets of an Australian Icon

ABSTRACT: Despite being largely a cottage industry, the Australian opal mining industry contributes up to $ 1 billion dollars per annum to the Australian economy. With over 95% of world’s precious opal being mined in Australia, the Australia’s national gemstone is not only one of our major export earners but also the life blood of many central Australian townships. Despite a history of mining going back to the mid 1800s, the formation of opal deposits is still poorly understood. The Australian Research Council funded a research project to investigate the processes controlling the formation of Australian opal and to use this information to construct an exploration model that will lead to more effective and efficient exploration methods. This cross-disciplinary project will conduct structural, petrographic, geochemical and geochronological investigations of Australian opal deposits and their host sequences to understand the processes controlling the formation of precious sedimentary opal from the Great Artesian Basin in central Australia. Our objective is to demonstrate that modern exploration techniques based on genetic exploration models, that have made base metal exploration so successful, can replace old-fashioned prospecting methods and help the opal industry to move into the 21th century and to reach its full potential. This proposal can potentially transform the Australian opal exploration and mining industry.

Mr Paul SedawieMr Paul Sedawie, OPAL President
Director of Seda Opals, President of the Opal Association Inc.

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: Selling Opals on the Internet

BIOGRAPHY: After graduating from agriculture college Paul’s farming career ended and his opal career commenced. In 1989 Paul became an opal dealer developing new markets and setting up a cutting factory in Asia.

ABSTRACT: The Internet sale of opal is still in its infancy but it has the potential to open up new markets for direct selling of opals. While the opal industry has challenges this is a new method that can educate the public and increase sales for the industry. This method of selling allows sellers to target potential buyers who otherwise would not search out opal on the internet. While a number of dealers and re sellers of opals to the trade has been contracting this form of selling can reach an un-serviced market and it allows the miners/dealers to cut out middle sellers and service the potential buyers directly.

Ebay is a good learning area but it is Professional sellers learn to work the market and sell larger orders to retailers who don’t have the time to search through thousands of items on a site. Opal collectors can express interest in a stone and ask to see it on your next selling trip.

Current research of opal buyers on the internet has revealed a missing age group of 40 to 50 years old who seem to have disappeared as buyers of opal online. The younger age group appears to be more interested in this new way of selling opal. The strength of the internet market is the 50 plus age group and surprisingly the 30-35 age groups. This holds well for the industry’s future as hopefully they will turn it into opal collectors.

There are pit falls in this technique of selling opal. You must learn to be efficient (i.e. time management) otherwise much of your time can be wasted without any outcomes. Security is an ongoing concern and it is important to win the consumers trust. Over enhancing of opal pictures and descriptions can confuse and mislead customers which does not help the industry. It is important for this new way of selling opal to offer fill money back guarantees as success relies on repeat business.

The future is very bright with thousands of potential new customers joining the internet each day and getting comfortable with online purchases. The introduction of videos will show a stone in a more true state than pictures giving the buyers more confidence to buy opals.

Mr Phil FerencziMr Phil Ferenczi
Regional Geologist with the QLD Department of Mines and Energy

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: Central West Queensland exploration and new developments in 2009

BIOGRAPHY: Phil is a geoscience graduate from the University of NSW, and has completed a number of mineral resource-related projects with the Northern Territory Government between 1987 and 2005. Projects included detailed investigation, mapping and publication of base metal, industrial mineral and precious metal mineral systems across the Top End and Territory-wide mineral commodity reviews for gold, iron ore, manganese and bauxite.

Phil is currently the Regional Geologist with the QLD Department of Mines and Energy, based in Rockhampton, where he is responsible for: providing geoscientific information and advice to industry and regional development agencies; providing mineral and energy resource-related spatial datasets to Regional Councils and Regional Planning / Land Use groups, and publication of significant mineral, coal, gas and extractive resource areas and new mining developments across central Queensland. Phil received an Australia Day Achievement Award in January 2008 from the Department of Mines and Energy for the provision of outstanding professional services and advice to regional stakeholders in Central Queensland.

Damien CodyMr Damien Cody

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: The Nexus between inbound Tourism and the Australian Opal Industry.

BIOGRAPHY: After completing a diploma in Business Studies, Damien carved a highly successful career in the insurance and financial service sectors where he held senior executive positions with a number of leading international organizations.

His passion eventually led him to the opal industry where he and his brother are directors of a leading Australian opal exporting company which also operates retails opal stores and museums in Australia. These companies have won Government Export and Tourism Awards for excellence in these fields.

Damien has served the industry in a number of capacities including as International Colored Gemstone Association Ambassador to Australia.

Mr Andrew CodyMr Andrew Cody
President of International Colour Gemstone Association (ICA) and Director of Cody Opal

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: The Global Jewellery Industry, Its History, Current Trends and Opportunities for Australian Opal.

BIOGRAPHY: Andrew started collecting fossils, minerals, and gemstones at 12 years of age. He began cutting opal in 1964 after a school excursion to Coober Pedy in the Outback of Australia. He later established Cody Opal, a wholesale and gem cutting business in 1971, which expanded to include exporting to Europe, Japan and USA. His industry achievements include involvement in the proclamation of Opal as Australia’s National Gemstone, the production of an award winning Opal stamp series with Australia Post, the design of the official National Gemstone emblem and development of the official Opal Nomenclature.

Andrew’s first publication, “Australian Precious Opal – a Guide Book for Professionals” is used extensively worldwide by the industry and is a best seller. He has just launched another opal publication and video, both are translated into five languages. Andrew is joint founder and director of “The National Opal Collection” with showrooms and Museums in both Sydney and Melbourne. Andrew’s opalised fossil collection is expansive and includes a 2.7 metre opalised pliosaur and the upper jaw of a rare mesozoic mammal. Andrew is a Research Associate of The Australian Museum, and his businesses are winners of both Government Export and Tourism Industry Awards.

Over the past 25 years Andrew has continuously served the Industry in a number of official capacities including President of the Australian Gem Industry Association, Foundation Member and Chairman of the Australian Jewellery and Gemstone Industry Council, and is currently President of The International Coloured Gemstone Association (ICA).

One of the many projects Andrew has been involved in at ICA is the development of a concept which presents a practical way to introduce a worldwide ethical trade system for the jewellery industry.

Mr Col DuffMr Col Duff
Opal Miner, Computer Enthusiast

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: Advances in Geographical Information Systems, Digital Terrain Modeling, Mapping, Satellite imagery, GPS, their use and applications for Prospecting and Exploration in the Opal Industry.

BIOGRAPHY: In the 1980’s, Colin was working as a Telecom technician in Network Construction. His Opal Adventure started on the weekends in the late 1980’s, exploring old opal mining areas , when in Western Queensland installing Solar Powered Radio telephones for 2 years. In 1990 he left Telecom, to start full time Opal mining on Mayneside Station, eventually settling in Opalton.

The release of the Queensland Boulder Opal Data CD in 2000 sparked a interest in computer mapping and its application to Opal Prospecting and Exploration.

ABSTRACT: A demonstration of current advances in Geographical Information Systems, Digital Terrain Modelling, Mapping, Satellite imagery, GPS, there use and applications for Prospecting and Exploration in the Opal Industry.

Mr David ElliotMr David Elliot
Chairman of Australian Age of Dinosaurs


BIOGRAPHY: David has a passion for Australian natural history and his initial discovery of dinosaur fossils in the 1990’s has led to numerous dinosaur digs in the Winton district.

In 2002 David and his wife Judy founded Australian Age of Dinosaurs and in the 7 years since, the organisation has been instrumental in the discovery and recovery of some of Australia’s most significant dinosaur fossils. During this time Australian Age of Dinosaurs has amassed the largest collection of bones from Australia’s large Cretaceous dinosaurs in the world.

Through the support of people from all over Australia, David and his team publish an annual journal on Australian natural history and have operated a fossil preparation facility in western Qld since 2006.

The organisation has attracted over $2m in funding and has commenced building the initial stages of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History in a wilderness area near Winton.

Ms Jenni BrammalMs Jenni Brammall
Manager – Australian Opal Centre, Lightning Ridge

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: The Australian Opal Centre – ride the wave

BIOGRAPHY: Jenni Brammall completed a science degree in Zoology and History and Philosophy of Science at the University of NSW, then in 1987 received first class Honours in Vertebrate Palaeontology. She abandoned a half-completed law degree so that she could continue working with fossils. Her professional background includes postgraduate fieldwork, research and publication in vertebrate palaeontology (UNSW); employment as a scientific Research Assistant (University of Sydney) and tutor (UNSW); journalism, event management, exhibition development and curation, photography, writing and graphic design, advertising, bookkeeping, jewellery and web site design, opal sales and marketing in Australia and the United States. Jenni has worked for numerous clients in the government, private and non-profit sectors.

In the mid 1990s, while part of a research team collecting opalised fossils underground, Jenni fell in love with Lightning Ridge and with opal. She moved to Lightning Ridge in 1998, initially to take up the position of editor and journalist at The Ridge News, then continuing on to a range of other activities. Jenni has contributed to numerous publications and several exhibitions, most recently (2008), the new exhibition and showroom of the Australian Opal Centre (formerly Lightning Ridge Opal and Fossil Centre), of which she has been project manager since 2004.

SYMPOSIUM ABSTRACT: Since 2004, the Australian Opal Centre has grown from a concept to a substantial reality with more than $2 million in assets, including a highly significant public museum collection, exhibition space, retail operation, 3.1 hectare site, innovative building plans, development approval and strong industry and community support. The Centre has extensive ties with the scientific, cultural and tourism sectors. AOC’s parent organisation, the not-for-profit entity LROFC Inc, has members in most of the opal-producing areas and most states of Australia, as well as in New Zealand, Europe, Asia and the United States.

In March 2009, a funding application was submitted to the Federal Government to assist with construction of the Centre. The AOC is supported by Walgett Shire Council, the NSW Government, private and industry sponsors and the community; greater involvement is sought from individuals, organisations and government departments in other opal-producing states.

Representatives of all opal-producing areas should ensure that their products are strongly represented in the exhibitions and programs of the Australian Opal Centre – so that as the Centre surges forward, they can ride the wave.

The Australian Opal Centre is a public facility being developed to celebrate and promote the Australian opal industry and opal-related products, scientific research, education, heritage and tourism. Each of Australia’s opal-producing regions has distinctive opal and opalised fossils, mining methods, landscapes, natural and cultural heritage and tourism potential.

Mr Greg McKayMr Greg McKay

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: Your legal rights and obligations as miners and traders

BIOGRAPHY: Greg is a full time opal miner, living in Quilpie; he has a number of mining leases. He has been active in the opal industry since 2000 and has been full time since 2002. Greg was the Queensland Opal Miner’s Association president in 2007.

After successfully completing Environmental Law studies at Qld University in 2004, Greg has continued his legal studies, directly related to the mining industry.


  1. The various relevant Acts and Regulations
  2. The impact these acts have now and in the future to your industry

Mr John WatkinsMr John Watkins

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: Opal formation and opal prospecting – what have we learnt in the last 25 years?

BIOGRAPHY: John Watkins holds a Bachelor of Science and Diploma in Education from the University of NSW. He also has a Master of Economic Geology degree from CODES (University in Tasmania) and a Graduate Diploma in Management from the University of Western Sydney.

John joined the Geological Survey of NSW in 1981 and initially worked on numerous resource and strategic assessment projects that included industrial minerals, gemstones (opal) and metallic mineral resources. John also has extensive experience in regional mapping and has worked on and managed numerous regional mapping projects throughout NSW.

John is currently an Assistant Director in the Geological Survey and Manager of the Regional Mapping and Exploration Geoscience Program.

Drago PanichDrago Panich

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: Thirty-five years of opal exploration at lightning ridge evolution of exploration methods and techniques

ABSTRACT: A chronology of exploration models and exploration techniques that have been used and may have evolved since the very early 1970’s to the present day with particular reference to Lightning Ridge in addition some comments on both South Australia and Queensland. Comments are made on opal exploration models, geophysics methods attempted, geochemistry, drilling equipment used and evaluation of results. The talk will discuss the question of what constitutes a successful drill-hole. What is “opal mineralisation” and how may it be possible to assess a “potentially economic deposit” from drilling results?

Department of mines and Energy QLD SA and NSWDepartment of mines and Energy QLD SA and NSWMr James EvertMr James Evert

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: Marketing the image of opal

BIOGRAPHY: The Evert family moved to Winton in 1901 from the gold fields of Charters Towers. From this time there has always been an association with the opal fields around Winton. In 1984 James joined his late father Vince and Mother Cecilia, in a business partnership that lasted till 2005.

During this time they mined intensely around the Winton mining region and developed cutting workshops.In 1986 moved into retail in Townsville and by 1990 moved the retail operation to Cairns and participated in trade shows in the USA, Japan, and Europe for many years promoting and wholesaling boulder opal.

James was president of the Queensland Boulder Opal Association in 1992 and has been a working member of the association since its inception in 1991. As the QBOA representative for native title negotiations in 2002, the first historic ILUA for small time miners was signed off on, allowing the process of granting mining claims and leases in the Winton region to continue.

The last 4 years James has worked on a project built around branding and lifting the image of opal to the Australian and world markets.

Mr David RatliffMr David Ratliff b.com

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: The potential benefits and problems manufacturing in Australia, China and elsewhere around the world.

Mrs Janice EvertMrs Janice Evert
Mrs June Prpic
Mrs Lilo Stadler

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: An insight into the role women play in the Australian Opal Industry.

Mr Peter Christianos SnrMr Peter Christianos Snr
Mr Vlado Prpic

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: Positive reflections upon the colourful history of Opal, her admirers and use by the Master Jewellers

BIOGRAPHY: Peter Christianos Jr, is third generation in the family business, founded by his father Peter and following on from grandparents George and Zoë and has been immersed in the Opal industry from birth. Up until his late teens he and his cousins met on weekends and holidayed in Coober Pedy.

In his early twenties he graduated as an Economist and Gemmologist, he then travelled to Brazil – Gemstone paradise. There he indulged his passion for coloured Gems and revisited the Opal mines he had known as a child. On his return to Australia Lightning Ridge became the focus of the family Opal business.

Now based in Winton Queensland and a Boulder Opal specialist, he has had the privilege of cutting more than $30m worth of Boulder Opal, several million dollars worth of Lightning Ridge Black and South Australian Crystal since he first learned to cut at seven years of age. Peter vividly remembers burning himself often on Uncle Emmanuel’s metho lamp in Coober Pedy, licking lots of stones and specking the fields where his grandparents first mined in the late 1950’s.

Recently, with his family’s passion for Opal firmly in his blood, Peter decided it was time to build a comprehensive Opal website, www.opalsinformation.com, showcasing 120 years of Australian Opal; Use in Fine Jewellery, Museum pieces, Mythology and Gemmology. This brilliant website promotes the entire industry and in particular the battlers who make it possible; dedicated to the world of Opal miners…

BIOGRAPHY ABSTRACT: Focusing on the positives in the promotion of Opal and the dissemination of information on Opals. Opal has had an illustrious history and has captured the imagination of great minds and craftspeople throughout time. The World’s great jewellery houses have used Australian Opal since it was first discovered and the bravest amongst them designed and promoted our Gemstone untiringly.

Mr Max Lane SnrYianna Athanasidia
Director of Opal Corporation which operates Umoona Mine & Opal Museum in Coober Pedy

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC:The South Australian opal Industry

BIOGRAPHY: Yanni arrived in Australia in 1972 and one week later was in Coober Pedy mining for opal. He was a full time miner for seven years before starting his first retail outlet “The Opal Gallery” in Coober Pedy.

Three years later Yanni purchased Umoona Opal Mine and Museum which is operating to this day as Coober Pedy’s premier underground tourist attraction and is the winner of multiple tourism awards.

In 1996 Yanni produced multiple award winning documentary “The Story of Opal”.

Over the last few years Yanni has established an association with South Australia Museum and built the first permanent offsite display of fossil collection items at Umoona Opal Mine and Museum. The fossil collection includes a near complete plesiosaur skeleton found in Coober Pedy in 1987. The plesiosaur was officially named “Umoonasaurus” in 2006.

Yanni’s passion for opal is what kept him in this business for 37 years. During this time he has also had retail outlets in Adelaide, Ayers Rock and Darwin and is involved in opal buying, cutting and manufacturing and exporting.

Mr Max Lane SnrMr Max Lane

SYMPOSIUM TOPIC: Supply and Demand – The need for more opal production

BIOGRAPHY In 1965 Max Lane commenced work in the gemstone and jewellery business with Diamond Traders in Sydney, later becoming the General Manager and Associate Director. After 5 years he founded Gemtec Pty Ltd and commenced trading as a precious gemstone wholesaler exporting opal to Japan, North America and Europe, and importing sapphire, ruby, aquamarine and emerald for wholesale distribution in Australia and New Zealand.

In 1975 he started Gemtec’s first tax free jewellery retail outlet in the new Sydney Hilton Hotel and later the same year commenced trading on the 8th floor of 250 Pitt Street with a large showroom selling opals, jewellery and souvenirs to inbound tourists.

He then re-located the showroom in Sydney to the ground floor of 250 Pitt Street and started Australia’s first “three in one” tax free showroom selling opals, jewellery, Australian souvenirs and duty free products to inbound tourists.

In 1982 he expanded Gemtec’s retail operation to Melbourne opening a jewellery and souvenir showroom in Exhibition Street and then built Gemtec’s wholesale buying office in Lightning Ridge, New South Wales and one year later Gemtec’s wholesale buying and rough processing office in Longreach, Queensland.

In 1985 Gemtec’s retail operations were expanded to Cairns in Queensland and Perth in Western Australia.

In 2004 he merged the Gemtec retail business with Cody Opals to form Cody Gemtec Retail Pty Ltd operating the National Opal Collection in Sydney and Melbourne.

Over the years Gemtec’s wholesale company Clifton Opal has become arguably Australia’s largest cutter, wholesaler and exporter of Queensland Boulder Opal whilst continuing to maintain a passionate and hands on interest in the retail business through the National Opal Collection and its showrooms in Sydney and Melbourne.

Mr Max Lane SnrR. Dietmar Muller
Head of School of Geosciences, University of Sydney

ABSTRACT: The occurrence of opal in the Great Artesian Basin is a reflection of a sequence of geodynamic processes, starting with Cretaceous flooding about 120 Ma and subsequent uplift of eastern Australia, followed by Australia’s northward motion during a period of gradual global cooling and sea level fall. During the Miocene starting at about 25 Ma, the Indo-Australian Plate was subjected to several consecutive collisions and mountain building episodes along its margins leading to intraplate deformation. The combination of these processes led to periods of intense weathering, silcrete formation, gentle folding and ultimately opal formation. Recently developed computer simulation technologies, linked to geological observations, can be used to unravel the geodynamic forces that ultimately drove these processes. Geodynamic models show that eastern Australia has flexed like a giant wobble board in the mid-Cretaceous, moving hundreds of metres down, as it was drawn down by a sinking subducted plate underneath the continent, leading to submergence, flooding and deposition of a thick sedimentary sequence. The continent rebounded later, as the giant sinking slab vanished nearly entirely into the deep, lower mantle, leading to eastern Australia sitting high and dry in a hot-house climate with a global sea level at least 170 m higher than today. During the Miocene continental collisions in Tibet, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea gripped Australia like a gigantic vice, leading to a large increase in horizontal stress magnitudes. This process may be responsible for the formation of the gentle anticlines and synclines in the Great Artesian Basin. We speculate that this may have led to a focussing of silicification along anticlines.

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