There are boutiques on every cruise ship. I even venture to say there are jewelry shops on every cruise ship. With plenty of time to browse, most ladies on a cruise will visit those businesses. Oceania cruise ships have specialty jewelers as guest speakers to explain the finer points of each stone, setting or design. In Tahiti, for example, black pearls were explained and naturally sold, too. A collection of the finest pearls were offered. The color, the size, the roundness all add up to give each particular pearl it's value. On each island around Tahiti and as far away as Fiji black pearls are offered for sale. Yet, once aware of the subtle points one can easily see the better pearls. Carol opted to buy her black pearl in Tahiti before the cruise since she had asked lots of questions and studied what she liked for some time. Her purchase, I must say, is a great pearl. I had little to nothing to do with her final choice. She asked me of course what I thought of her buy, but it was really her who did the choosing. She did a great job and I believe she got a great product for the money she finally paid.
Near the end of our cruise, on the leg from Brisbane to Sydney, a jeweler gave a seminar on opals. The stone that shimmers in all kinds of colors when light hits it, but might look like a plain "rock" at the wrong angle. I did not know it but Carol has always wanted an opal. As a young woman she was given the opal of her grandmother. One day, during her almost daily ice skating practices, she discovered the stone had fallen out of the ring. No more opal. Of course she was upset then, so was her mother who also loved that stone. Opals do that to you, I am told. You get hooked on the display of the mufti colors one can see when studying the light reflected off the surface. So, years ago Carol said to herself that one day she will buy a new opal. And here she is on this cruise and the jeweler is explaining the finer points of this gem stone.
The best opals, the black opals, come from just one small area in Australia, a region known as Lightning Ridge. I am not sure if those 'lightings' had anything to do with the creations of these opals, but the stones found in that region are one of the rarest stones on earth. They are much, much rarer than diamonds for example. There are many opals; some look milky, some green. The whole description of the opal is a science. In addition, there are double or even triple "plated" opals that all add to the confusion created, no doubt, to fool the buyers or the uneducated. So it is important to deal with a reputable, trustworthy source before buying an opal. The jeweler invited by Oceania cruises is a member of the Australian Opal Society and this guy, Alex, knew his stuff. He owns his own business and is a 3rd generation stone cutter. Alex designed, manufactured and presented a special brooch to Lady Camilla, Prince Charles' latest wife. His reputation is impeccable. The examples he showed were outstandingly beautiful. So were his prices. Out of Carol's league. Or so we thought! Well, let me tell you a story that only providence can match.
The whole basis of our story is Macedonia, the birth place of Alexander the Great. Pun intended! Our Alex was born in a town near Zagorice, the town we visited while doing our Balkan trip in 2011. He was so happy that we visited his home county that he took some time out to explain in even more detail how opals are processed, polished and fabricated into jewelry. He even donned his apron, worked some sample rocks, polished the found opals within, etc. One story lead to another, one connection lead to others and we all had a great time at Alex's business on the 3rd floor of a building in Sydney. You see, we did not stop Alex and his sales pitch on the ship, we promised to see him in Sydney. We wanted to see what else he had to offer besides the very exclusive merchandise he had on the ship. Carol was intrigued and by now, so was I. There was just no other way anyhow, because once Carol's mind is set on something she pursues it with a vengeance. Carol wanted to find an opal to make up for the lost one she once had. Nothing was stopping Carol this time. I talked her out of buying an opal in Mexico a few years back, I did not know then the grandmother story, but this time, Carol's mind was made up. The two of them, Alex and Carol hit it off well. After some difficult choosing, after some alterations to the ring size on the spot, after much grinning and smiles Carol now has a black opal; the rarest gem in the word, certified to be from the Lighting Ridge Mine area. A fantastic, small wonder of the natural world. Congratulations Carol!