Opal is a beautiful stone for a cameo. The portrait details are more subtle than Agate, due to Opals softness. The play of color adds a special beauty to the Jewel. Carving Opal is a delicate process and great experience is required.

Cameo Portrait of a Daughter in Precious Opal

The original precious Opal is shown on the left.  This was supplied by Just Opal and was found in CooperPedy, Australia.  As this was a crystal Opal I made a black onyx slice to back the stone. This enhances the color and makes the portrait more prominent. The play of color in a fine Opal gives a wonderful effect, especially as the gemstone is turned, as this changes with movement. The dual purpose setting is in Gold and can be worn as a brooch pin or a pendant. The stars engraved around the carving  are a tribute to her sports team's logo. The reverse is engraved with a personal message and a posy of flowers.


This Antique Opal cameo jewel works so well. The portrait is cut to the profile and enhanced with Diamond and Gold detailing. The Opal is backed by a red enameled 'Guilloche' or engine turned gold plate. A delicate surround of entwinned scrolls with Diamond accents completes the jewel.


A cocktail ring by Gareth Eckley, with a large Crystal Opal from Australia. Set in a ring designed to echo the ocean. Yellow and White Gold waves cradle the Opal. The gem is accented with Diamonds.

Opals Suitable for Cameos

A stable stone, free from cracks and with a thick layer of fire is needed for a good carving. Ethiopian Opals have a higher water content than others, this makes them less stable.  Brazilian and Australian Opal are the best sources for Opal for carving. Opal is a soft stone and does not like heat or pressure. The carver has to have a light and delicate touch to avoid damage. Opal carvings must be polished. This makes carving Opal a long process and great experience is needed to create the best results.  The Black Opal from Lightening Ridge or Mintabe is so rare in large sizes that a cameo sized stone could cost more than $100,000.


White Opal

White Opal with a play of color from Cooper Pedy, Australia.

Crystal Opal

Crystal is a transparent Opal. It is often backed by a Black stone to enhance the Color.

Boulder Opal

Boulder Opal with a layer of Opal on a black Ironstone Matrix
australian black opal

Black Opal

Black Opal with Blue and Green color from Lightning Ridge, Australia

Mexican Fire Opal

Orange - Red Opal from Mexico. Some material has a play of color ' fire ' within the gemstone.

Book a Design Consultation for Your Custom Jewel. Upload Your Photos To Gareth Eckley

Antique Opal Cameos

These cameos show the different looks that an Opal can give. The cameo on the left is a white Austalian Opal set in a gold, Diamond and Emerald brooch pin.  The center Opal is cut to the profile, which does accentuate the portrait. The cameo on the left is a darker Australian Opal and is set in a gold ring.

Antique 19th Century Boulder Opal Cameo Pin

An unusual technique where the matrix, or the ironstone rock under the Opal, becomes part of the design. This matrix is usually cut away or left hidden. The precious Opal layer is carved with a winged helmet. The face and reverse is carved into the ironstone. This gives a very strong contrast. Believed to have been carved by William Schmidt, this sold for $17,497 in 2015. For more information on this, and other Opal carvings visit the excellent blog by Cathleen McCarthy - The Jewelry Loupe

Fine Art Nouveau Jewelry with Carved Opals


Water Lily Opal Necklace

Carved Opal water lilies with an Opal drop in Gold. By Rene Lalique, one of the finest Art Nouveau jewelers.

Opal Commesso Cameo Pendant

Opal is inlaid to enhance the portrait cameo. This won the Grand Prix award for best of the show at the Paris Expo of 1900 for Henri Vever.

Hat pin by Rene Lalique

The third image has an exquisite carving of an Opal sun. This enameled hat pin has Wasps made of Gold with Diamond set wings.

White and Black Opal Art Nouveau Brooch

Superb Art Nouveau Brooch. Finest quality white and black opals with Diamond and Emerald set Filigree work

Reverse of the Art Nouveau Brooch Pin

Detailed Close Up

Unusual Carved Opal Jewelry

Left is a Bird brooch pin by Cartier, with an Opal center. Next a pair of Diamond and Gold earrings with Opal spheres. An Opal pendant with a well designed Diamond accent. The last example shows a ring with an Opal cameo set onto a Lapis Lazuli gemstone.

Useful Resources

Good information sources to learn more about precious Opal. Opal Auctions sells opal from miners and collectors.  If you are considering bidding on an Opal, share the info with Gareth for advice on if the stone is suitable for a carving. They have an ebook that you can download. They also have a guide to each variety of Opal that they sell. Black Opal Direct has a YouTube channel where Justin cuts and polishes Opal. He is a good source for information and finished gems.

Opal Auctions

A resource where you bid on Opals offered for sale my miners and cutters. They also have up to date info about Opals and an ebook that you can download.

Just Opals

David and Ro have a wide selection of Black, White, Crystal and Boulder Australian Opals. The Opal for my portrait of a daughter cameo on this page was found by them.

Black Opal Direct

Gem quality black, white, crystal and boulder Opals for sale from a trusted source. Justin has a YouTube channel where he cuts and polishes Opal.

The Jewelry Loupe

For more information on carved Opals visit the excellent blog by Cathleen McCarthy The Jewelry Loupe.

GIA Guide to Opals

Authoritative resource and buyers guide from The Gemological Institute of America.