March 1, 2016
In 1982, Barbara Lamont’s life changed – having left her career as a graphic designer to travel, she found herself in the Australian outback where she met and fell in love with her husband-to-be, Piet and in turn was introduced to opal mining.
Barbara and Piet began opal mining as a ‘hobby’ and by 1984 turned it into a full time business. Over the next few years they mined, cut and polished opal and Barbara used her talents as a designer to create their own jewellery range. The Opalcutter was formed in 1990 and in the early days, Barbara and Piet concentrated on the light opal, sourced from their own mines at Coober Pedy as well as Andamooka and dark opal from Mintabie. The pair also frequently searched Australia-wide to source black opal from Lightning Ridge and the Queensland boulder opal fields. After Piet’s untimely death in August 2006, Barbara ran the business almost entirely by herself and continued the dream.
Life changing milestone 1: Life in the Australian outback, 1982
In 1982 I left a career as a freelance graphic artist in Germany intending to holiday by travelling part of the world. After visiting India and then Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide I travelled up the centre and ended up in Coober Pedy. There I met and fell in love with Piet Lamont as well as the outback. Within two days I started a new career as an opal miner, and within the month we were engaged and married a few months later. We had a great personal and working life together, enjoying the beautiful and sparse landscape as well as the easy and simple lifestyle. On the other side, we experienced a lot of financial hardship along the way, as opal mining can be quite an expensive ‘hobby’ despite our best intentions to make it a profitable business – a great learning experience!
Life changing milestone 2: Opening ‘The Opalcutter’ shop, 1990
While continuing our own opal mining, cutting and polishing we started cutting stones for tourists as well as designing and handcrafting jewellery. We quickly grew to a successful business in Coober Pedy and became known as ‘the leaders in modern opal jewellery design’ both locally and overseas. With a great team behind us, Piet and I were able to travel Europe and especially to the London jewellery fair to showcase our beautiful Australian opals to the world. We did this for 10 years and loved every bit of it.
Life changing milestone 3: Losing my beloved husband, business partner and best mate, 2006
Everything came to a crashing halt with Piet’s sudden death of cancer in 2006. Missing him and running the business by myself I decided to close the shop and move away from Coober Pedy. Piet and I had already planned some time earlier that we would move to Cairns and start a new opal mining venture on the Queensland boulder opal-fields near Cunnamulla.
Life changing milestone 4: Meeting Edi, 2007
The intention to move from Coober Pedy took on a different time frame and direction when my German shepherd Rex met another German shepherd puppy also Rex (he now answers to Max). Meeting the young Rex’s owner, the last thing I imagined was to find love again. We were married by the end of the year, Edi retired as school principal at Coober Pedy and we moved to Cairns. It didn’t take long for the opal-bug to get me again and we spent lots of time on our mining lease near Cunnamulla, 1000 kms west of Brisbane. Although we loved the mining and simple lifestyle of working on the boulder field, the process is expensive and we were going financially backwards.
Life changing milestone 5: Opening a new business in
In 2012 we looked for a new place to live and start a business and liked Montville in the Hinterland of the Sunshine Coast. In December of that year we opened our new shop. As much as we love opal, there are lots of other jewellery and gemstones from all around the world. Mining has come to a halt; now we are busy working seven days a week in our gallery-style shop and we are very happy with our life together. Thanks to Rex and Max for getting us together!