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Hooked

The Undeniable Allure of Uncut Opals

A pandemic-fueled search for mystical gems led to Variance Objects.

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AT THE CENTER of the 2019 film “Uncut Gems” is a black opal from Ethiopia — one that basketball star Kevin Garnett believes has special powers. Jeweler Howard Ratner (played by Adam Sandler) tells him, “They say you can see the whole universe in opals, that’s how old they are.”

The film influenced my search for empowering gems to counteract the darkest moments of quarantine. I soon found an eclectic black-diamond ring at a local boutique from a brand that wasn’t on my radar. A few curious clicks later, I arrived at Variance Objects, a Santa Cruz–based company offering glittering opal rings, necklaces, and earrings.

If you stare deeply enough into a shimmering opal, you may conclude that it really does contain the universe, whether entire galaxies or singular supernovas. Neither stones nor minerals, opals get their kaleidoscopic appearance from centuries of rain, compression, and light. Many of the most vibrant varieties, including black opals, come from Australia’s Lightning Ridge, a small town in New South Wales. Aboriginal lore suggests that a wheel of fire fell to Earth, leaving the opals and their luminous fractals scattered across the rural basin.

Many cultures have also formed narratives based on the opal’s chemistry. The Greeks maintained that after a thunderous war, Zeus’ tears crystallized into opals. The Arabs believed that opals fell from the sky after storms.

The appeal of Variance Objects’ opals goes beyond their ethically sourced, Australian provenance. The duo behind Variance carefully cuts and sets gems with a “rough beauty” aesthetic. Standards of symmetry and smoothness are secondary to texture and shape. Typically discarded parts of the gemstones are incorporated, from the earth that preserved them to subtle spots that make them unique. For me, the brand’s pieces lovingly sparkle with a bit of the universe carried in every gem.

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words by helen jennings, photography laurence ellis

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Our Contributors

Cedar Pasori Writer

Cedar Pasori is a writer and editor covering culture, design, and creativity. Pasori is based in Portland, Oregon, and has contributed to publications such as Interview, Complex, and Dazed and Confused.

Ahonen & Lamberg Illustrator

Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.

Departures and American Express do not provide, endorse, or guarantee any of the items, and the sale of such items is governed by the third-party seller’s policies, terms, and conditions.
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