“Like little jewelled fairytales” is how Irene Neuwirth describes a pair of earrings featuring carved pink opal strawberries dangling from dainty pavé stems. “I love working with pink opals. That cotton-candy pink is so feminine and almost saccharine sweet – it brightens everyone up.”
Neuwirth’s jewellery – a favourite among those looking to make a red-carpet statement – often incorporates imaginatively presented pink opals. Her aptly named Gumball collection (price on request) is a playful case in point. Worn by actress Sarah Paulson at the CFDA Fashion Awards in June, the line features colourful gemstone orbs – including mouthwatering pink opals – set in frothy asymmetric clusters on slim diamond bangles.
Neuwirth is not the only designer in thrall to the jewellery world’s latest gemstone crush. When Stephen Webster discovered an oil drum full of Peruvian pink opal in its rough boulder form at a gem show, he negotiated for the lot, buying himself enough material to last a decade.
Webster’s Fly By Night ear studs (£3,900) feature Crystal Haze doublets, fashioned from a layer of pink opal topped with multifaceted rock crystal. As light enters the doublets, it causes the stone to produce a holographic-like “haze” of colour. “The dense pink inner layer resembles something one might find in a Viennese cake shop,” says Webster of the effect.
Serendipity led Pamela Love to the stone too: “I have always been obsessed with the colour of coral, but it’s not ethical to use coral unless in reused vintage pieces. We found an amazing pink opal from Oregon that had that same colour.” Held in place by a sculptural 18ct gold, pavé-diamond-sprinkled frame, a lush coral-hued opal forms the centrepiece of Love’s asymmetric Comet cocktail ring ($3,200).
In contrast to showier black opals, the “common” pink or rose opal does not exhibit play of colour and has, until relatively recently, played second fiddle to its precious cousins. Tastes are evolving, however. “Jewellery buyers are becoming more open to investing in less traditional coloured gemstones,” says Kirsty Stone, founder of LA-based Retrouvaí. “Pink opal is such a versatile gemstone. It’s fresh, feminine and can be dressed up or down. You can make an impact with this gem without looking overdone and my clients are embracing these statement pieces for everyday wear.” With its opaque pink opal inlay set against green tourmalines and diamonds, Retrouvaí’s popular Grandfather Compass pendant ($6,160) is a good example of this everyday appeal.
Self-confessed “rockhound” and lapidarist Pamela Huizenga is drawn to how well pink opals combine with other gemstones, “whether you are going for a monochrome feel with white opal or moonstones, or want a jazzed-up look with greens, blues or black”. To this end, her work includes designs such as a pair of 18ct gold earrings ($38,000) that juxtapose carved blueish-white opal flowers with fluted pink opal drops and diamonds. Likewise, a statement necklace from Panchoo (price on request) also includes emeralds, diamonds, tourmalines, spinels and tsavorites.
And Brazilian jeweller Joana Salazar’s unusual gemstone combinations are inspired by almost metaphysical properties. “All my collections are connected to my emotions and experiences I have lived,” she says, claiming that the pink opal cabochons in her rose gold Joy earrings ($3,674) bring a sense of “emotional balance”.
Maia Adams is a jewellery consultant and co-founder of Adorn Insight (adorninsight.com).