Peter Christianos, Opaline Australia
$10,000 AOC Founder
AOC Life Member
Third-generation opal miner, cutter and trader Peter Christianos is a gem connoisseur with deep roots in the Australian opal industry that hark back more than 60 years to the opal fields of Coober Pedy, South Australia. He is a dedicated AOC supporter and now an AOC Founder, paying tribute to his two heroes – his father, Peter Snr, and the humble Aussie opal miner.
“Opal has been my life ever since I was a kid. My dad Peter Snr was one of four brothers who grew up in his family’s opal mining business, which started in the 1950s when my grandparents moved to Coober Pedy. They had emigrated to Australia from Greece and started a fruit business, so when they learnt about opal and Coober Pedy they were capable of starting a mining operation as they already had trucks and things.
My family became quite successful with opal mining and, I think, were part of the reason a lot of Greeks ended up in Coober Pedy, because my grandparents’ success reverberated throughout that community. They were also helpful to other Greeks and there was a great sense of togetherness in those days.
My father and another brother did most of the work. They started out mining but soon dad became an opal trader and managed to succeed in his own right, buying and selling opal after his family company dissolved. He also mined for diamonds in Sierra Leone in West Africa and we’ve dealt in gems from all over the world – I have a gemmology degree – so I’ve been lucky to have had other gemstones in my life, which I think somehow helps to appreciate opal in different lights.
I grew up mining and cutting white Coober Pedy opal. I still work with my parents today in our family business and am very involved in cutting all types of opal and also trading. We still mine opal in Winton, Queensland as well have property and do business in Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge. There’s nothing more exciting than finding opal in the ground, except perhaps when you get the privilege of uncovering the gem; that’s my specialty and forte really, cutting opal. It’s a living creature that needs to be treated with respect.
I think to be a miner is a very big deal and I admire the true opal miner; they’re the toughest animal. I’ve represented them as the president of the National Opal Miners’ Association, but I don’t really consider myself one even though I have been there, done that and have enjoyed that part. It’s a very expensive enterprise today and a really hard slog to go out there and find opal. And you really are on the fringes of society. I respect that and I want to see the interest in opal mining and this way of life kept alive.
If you’re going to support the opal industry you’ve got to support the Australian Opal Centre (AOC). The AOC will not only honour and celebrate opal, but also our opal miners and the whole industry, as well as preserving and showcasing our Indigenous culture and way of life. I became a Founder for these reasons and also because I want to immortalise my father’s name. He’s not the sort of guy that’s going to put his hand up for it, and because we share the same name we’ll get good value out of it! So it’s a real privilege to be able to do this and an opportunity you won’t find anywhere else.
Having the AOC in Lightning Ridge, where some of the rarest and most beautiful opals are found, is going to mean it’s a legacy in place, in situ. Look at the Greeks; so many of their statues were removed and taken to museums in London and Berlin and all over the world, but there’s nothing more beautiful than seeing things where they’re meant to be.
The AOC will be a good reminder of what’s come before and that there’s always more opal to be found. Who knows, it might also give some people the impetus to become opal miners too. This would be great because, at the end of the day, our industry is only going to survive if we keep finding opal and keep production levels high.
Government support is important but there has to be private contribution too, and I like being a Founding member for that reason as well, that we’re not just totally relying on government funding. My initial reaction to the AOC being located at Lightning Ridge was one of apprehension as it would have to represent the entire opal industry over three states. I’ve since had time to consider the project more fully and have become a strong supporter.
I encourage all people in the Australian opal industry to become Founders too, but there’s many ways to get involved and help out – a friend of mine who doesn’t have the means to be a Founder has donated quite a few specimens, dinosaur prints and things, to the AOC collection. So we all have to support it in some way, no matter where we’re from. And it will happen, it just takes a bit of persistence.”
If you’d like to join Peter as an AOC Founder, please click here for a Founders Brochure and Application Form. For more information contact Olivia Ward by calling 0400 225 751 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!