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I first met my friend Tony Wong at the Tucson gem and mineral show in 1993 when he and some other friends were amongst the thirty five vendors at the new GJX show. A good friend Tim Crooks knew Tony and had been purchasing rough Opal from him in Australia to resell here in the U.S., Tim was also selling rough Opal for Tony as part of his business.
Tim was tragically killed in an automobile accident when returning from a fishing trip in Mexico in 1995 leaving Tony in somewhat of a quandary,as he had a pretty large inventory of Opal consigned to Tim for sale. Tony contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in marketing rough Opal for him. I told Tony I'd do it but there was no way I was going to go on the road as Tim did almost full time,mainly because of the fact that road travel could put you in danger and I had a pretty good business going making and selling my jewelry. Tony agreed with my terms and this was the start of a very long and wonderful friendship that continues to this day.
To give you an idea of the type person Tony is, after Tim died Tony told me to sell all of the white based Opal that was at Tim's and give the money to Tim's widow, truly a compassionate and generous human being.
About ten years ago Tony opened up a new Hong Kong based business, "Opal Resources" Tony had someone in Hong Kong design a logo for his new business venture which is the basis for the design in the buckle. I wanted to make Tony a special gift and the new logo was perfect for such an endeavor, I told Tony what I wanted to do and he insisted that he supply me with "Best Gem Crystal Opal" which as you can see in the image he did, nothing has been done to the image to enhance it so what you see is what the Opal looked like, in person the Opal is even better than in the image. Tony asked me to put three diamonds in the piece to honor his three children, we picked three flawless stones at Tucson and I was set to go.
In order to make the buckle the first thing I did was melt and alloy two Krugerrands (always fun to melt killer gold coins). Once I had the ingot made I used the rolling mill to make 18 gauge sheet. As I wanted the buckle to be rounded on the outer edges I took a small jade slab and ground it on three edges to give me the radius I was after, I then cut the final size I was after from the sheet and then using a rawhide mallet I hammered the sheet over the edge of the jade, this gave me the perfect edge I was after.
Once the main body of the buckle was ready I used square and half round draw plates to make the wire I needed to finish the inlay area and put the outside design in place. Once I had all of the front ready I then made the pieces for the buckle back from 18K for strength, got them soldered in place and was ready to finish things off.
Now to do something I'd never done before, as I rarely, almost never use diamonds, how do I set the three diamonds so that they complement the logo. Nothing to do but dive in, I drilled the holes and used a setting burr for the diamond seats, once this was done I used a graver to cut and roll the star pattern around each diamond, in rolling the metal you have a small curl of metal left at the end of the gouge, if your very careful the curl stays, I took a small prong setting tool that has a round impression in the end and lightly hammered all of the curls into tiny balls that hold the diamonds in place. Now came the most difficult part, inlay the logo so it looked like one piece of Opal, believe it or not there are 11 separate pieces inlaid into the logo.
Needless to say when I saw Tony at the Tucson show the following year and gave him his gift, he was thrilled.