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“We’re excited to see what comes next for the AOC and look forward to the positive impact it creates for everyone.”

Helen and Daryl Morse-Evans, Fremantle Opals
$10,000 AOC Founders
AOC Business Members

Owners of Perth-based opal gemstone and jewellery business Fremantle Opals, Helen and Daryl Morse-Evans have been involved in the retail opal industry for almost 25 years, receiving the Retail Excellence award the past two years in a row. The couple are committed to supporting the Australian Opal Centre as Founders and Members to ensure the future of Australia’s national opal industry is preserved for generations to come.  

“Opal is our life, and it’s been our income for a long time. We started out more than 24 years ago after moving from Melbourne to work for a company that had concessions at the Perth International Airport. That business originally focused on souvenirs but then they opened an opal shop and asked Helen to manage it. 

We had a young son at the time, so Helen was happy to work 2-3 days a week in the opal side of the business. That quickly turned into managing two shops, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. That’s where we first encountered so many of the wonderful people involved within the opal industry and we still deal with many of those businesses today.

When we left the airport we wanted to work for ourselves, and so looked at other businesses but opal was in our blood and that’s what we really enjoyed. So Helen started up Gems Australia at a small market in Fremantle. Soon after that we bought Fremantle Opals, originally established to attract business for the America’s Cup. We worked very hard to turn it into the business it is today, with ethical practices and opal education at the fore.

Once you’re in the industry and get to know everyone, it’s a bit of a disease; what we mean by that is opals get into your blood. Once you’re part of it, it’s hard to leave. When we first started we knew very little, but have learnt so much through the people that were coming into our shop to do business. Many are now loyal family friends because we’ve been involved with them for such a long time.

We love the opal industry – it’s very special. That’s why we’re happy to support it through our Australian Opal Centre (AOC) membership – and now we’ve signed up to be Founders too. We’re a small family business, so even though it’s a lot of money for us, we think the project and the concept are brilliant, and it’s our way of giving back to an industry that has been very kind to us for more than two decades.

The AOC has a 15-year history, so it’s nice to be part of something that’s been actively promoting opal for all that time and worked to get the gemstone more recognition globally. And there is nothing of its scale or permanency showcasing opal in our country, which deserves to be placed on a higher pedestal than it is at the moment. We need to support and market it to a greater degree.

Even though it’s a long way from Perth, we’ve visited Lightning Ridge many times. Daryl first went to Lightning Ridge in 1963. His mother was in a lapidary club in Sydney and the family went up there on holidays and fossicked on the mullock heaps. In the early 1970s he was in South West Queensland in the boulder opal mining fields flying opal miners around while training to be a pilot.

We love the Ridge, as we do all the opal fields around the country. They’re quintessentially Australian – remote, isolated, there’s always an interesting story, and the characters are unique and represent much of what Australia once was. It’s a tough life though – the vast distances to travel, the heat – and it’s rough to make a living out in those areas. But that’s the appeal of it all too, and the magic of finding an opal in that environment can make it all worth it.

To be able to bring people from all over Australia and the world to experience that lifestyle and environment for themselves through the AOC will be fantastic. And it will also establish a secondary industry for the town in terms of tourism and help keep the town alive. If the finished article matches the concept it’s going to be phenomenal, not just for the opal business but for the country as well.

Anywhere in the world you go, when they display their country wares, whatever it is, most places do it really well. And I think we need to do the same with our national gemstone. It needs to be preserved for the future generations. Because once the opals and fossils are gone, they’re gone. So everyone needs to learn what the industry is all about and be encouraged to be part of it to build recognition and support.

We encourage anyone thinking about becoming a Founder to sign up, especially people like us who have made a good living off opal. In our time in the industry, opal has not only become our business but also our passion. Even though we’re far away we’re committed to supporting and promoting the AOC project from Perth. We’re excited to see what comes next for the AOC and look forward to the positive impact it creates for everyone.”

If you’d like to join Helen and Daryl 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 founders@australianopalcentre.com. We look forward to hearing from you!