November 2002 Newsletter
Jacky and Elizabeth Delarue came to visit for a couple days, bringing with them a few bags full of the opal theyve mined, cut, and polished this year. They mine in the Winton area of north Queensland, famous for its boulder opal. The claim has been worked for years by hand, and although they always seem to come up with something, this year brought a hit onto a pretty good patch that not only carried some top bright-flash boulder opal but also some interesting opalised wood with great color! In December well be featuring their hard-won opals on a second page of the Over $100 Gallery.
Elizabeths a slight little thing that youd have to blink
twice at to see once, but that doesnt stop her from grabbing a pick
or jackhammer to extend a tunnel that runs at a depth of 40+ feet under
the earth. Although heavily outnumbered by men on the mining fields, the
women certainly contribute more than their fair share to the industry.
Out on the fields if youre lucky enough to have a woman in the camp
the difference between yours and the surrounding bachelor dwellings is
immediately obvious. Its amazing what a womans touch can do
to a couple sheets of tin roofing, a blue plastic tarp, and a dirt floor.
Heres a little known fact regarding women and jewelry: Sri Lanka
has been famous forever as the isle of gems. Pliny the Elder wrote Beware
the gem merchants of Gaul. Some time after the death of Buddha a
sapling of the Sacred Bo Tree was brought to Sri Lanka by Theri Sangamitta,
who also brought an entourage of craftsmen . . . including goldsmiths.
For centuries these men and their descendants made all of the thrones,
crowns, and regalia for the high caste royalty. Eventually all of the
male line of these smiths died out. When Mahalu Parakramabahu was made
king his regalia was made by Abo Panditiya, the last of that line. The
king offered a reward to anyone who could find a descendant of these smiths,
and a woman and her seven year old daughter came forward. She was granted
the right to practice this previously only-male craft, and thus she and
her daughter saved that uniquely Sri Lankan style of gold and stone work
from being lost. She had a son and trained him in the art. Upon completion
of his education he was given by the king the name of Abo Panditiya, the
last male of the original goldsmiths line. He and his descendants
made the regalia for the Polonnaruwa kings, and his mother lit the way
for the women of her caste by making the kings throne which earlier
had always been made by a man.
Its been the driest year on record for Queensland, with drought baking the rest of Australia. Most of the creeks have dried up in the Kuranda area, a rarity in a rainforest, but a small bonus in disguise. In the old days wed use a sheep skin, but nowadays a good sized strip of shag carpeting will do. We lay the carpet nap side up in a good spot of a dry creek bed and peg it to the bottom with steel re-enforcing bar (rebar). The upstream edge has a wedge-shaped length of wood (a diagonally cut piece of 2x4 works well) laid along that edge, pegged through it and the carpet into the creek bed. Now were waiting for rain. With any luck well have a good wet season starting next month. When those waters recede (sometime after Easter) well retrieve the carpets, invert them over a tarp, and beat the gold out of the weave with a good sized stick. Well be richer than our wildest dreams . . . well, maybe not that rich.
For those of you born in November, one of your power stones is topaz. In olden times it was worn as a talisman to drive away sadness and bad dreams by instilling cheerfulness and courage. If mounted in gold and worn around the neck it was said to remove any spell or enchantment cast upon the wearer. The word comes from the sanskrit tapas , meaning to glow. This is probably related to the cheerfulness aspect of the stone, and also to what happens if you rub (or heat) topaz. This electrifies it, causing it to attract fine little bits of stuff (hair, paper, good vibes, etc.) like a magnet.