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28 June 2001

Opal spectacular in outback Lightning Ridge

Our outback NSW opal-mining town of Lightning Ridge will host the Federation 2001 Opal Jewellery Design Awards and Exhibition, a spectacular international opal jewellery design competition and $30 million opal exhibition, on July 26 to 29, 2001.

The Awards and Exhibition will be held in conjunction with Lightning Ridge’s annual Opal and Gem Festival. By day visitors will marvel at an outstanding display of opal and opal jewellery; at night there will be fun, glamour and great entertainment.

Highlights will include participation by members of Australia’s Olympic silver medal-winning women’s basketball team, the Opals; a display of the opal-encrusted ceremonial scissors manufactured for the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932; and a Gala Awards Night on July 28 with entertainment by jazz and swing legends Swing City (seen at the Sydney 2000 Olympics opening ceremony), featuring singer Catherine Hunter and the Crazy Legs jitterbug dancers.

The Awards and Exhibition feature the world’s only opal-specific international jewellery design competition. In only its second year, the event had already attracted international as well as Australia-wide attention. Japanese design Kazuo Ogawa will fly to Lightning Ridge to join Nic Cerrone (House of Cerrone, Sydney) and others on the judging panel.

Exquisite opal jewellery will be displayed alongside the "Solid Rainbow Collection" of Lightning Ridge opal, valued in excess of AUD$30 million and believed to be the largest opal collection of its type in the world.

At the Awards Cocktail party on July 26, jewellery pieces from the Awards will be modelled in a dramatic parade.

For book collectors and opal lovers, there will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a valuable collection of 134 opal-related books, to be auctioned at the Gala Awards Night on July 28.

Opal is Australia’s spectacular national gemstone. It has always been mined by people of initiative and courage and because of its rarity and sporadic distribution, is one of the very few minerals still prospected, mined, cut and sold by individuals rather than large companies.

This year’s celebration of opal coincides with centenary celebrations for the Commonwealth of Australia, and also with 100 years of opal mining in Lightning Ridge. Old-time miners are being invited back to Lightning Ridge to join with the opal industry of today and to recall times past.

Opal is the only gemstone that changes colour and pattern in the observer’s hand. Despite its beauty and its place in Australian history and culture - and despite Australia producing over 95 percent of world opal supply - few Australians appreciate, know the value of, or wear opal.

The Federation 2001 Opal Jewellery Design Awards and Exhibition will finally show Australians their national gemstone in its true light.

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