• The highlight of Theo Fennel’s stand at Masterpiece London

  • Unusual opal creations from the bold British jeweller

  • A darker, seductive alternative to the usual jewellery default of diamonds


There was plenty to see at Masterpiece London this year and while most of that was aimed at art collectors, there was still plenty to goggle at in the realm of fine jewellery. Symbol & Chase had their usual museum of vintage pieces, Chantila dazzled with a trove of white diamonds and rubies and Van Cleef & Arpels mixed the two.

Theo Fennell though wasn’t content to do the usual; he never is. Rather than open and filled with light, his stand was darker and more atmospheric – something that applied as much to what he had to show as the ambience.

Opals – there’s just something evocative about the stone. Maybe it’s something as abstract as their innate, fiery beauty; maybe it’s simply because we don’t see them all too often. Either way, it’s always a pleasure to see them used right.

These particular opals have been sourced from Mexico, Australia and Ethiopia, a pedigree that very much shows. Name a colour and you can see it in them, whether it’s the usual white opal, a feminine shade of pink or the dark, almost iridescent versions. All are present in Theo’s collection and all are stunning.

Part of that is of course their natural beauty but another is their setting. To reflect the myriad colours you can see in the stones, Theo has surrounded each by a rainbow of bright gemstones, helping the eye pick out each distinct colour. It’s a bold approach, but as Theo himself says, “the flights of fancy these stones really deserve are not for the faint-hearted.”

Nor is wearing them. A large diamond will always get noticed, will always get appreciated and will quite often get forgotten. Beautiful as they are, diamonds are just too commonly used. Opals – especially examples of this size – are there to be noticed and remembered.

They’re not for everyone – even Theo says “I have had a love/hate relationship with Opals for many years but now I really see the point of them” – but many would say the same thing about many pieces the jeweller has produced himself over the years. Therein lays their charm.

I’m not saying pieces like this are a replacement for the traditionally exquisite jewels most collections should comprise of; but sometimes it’s good to wander the rockier, untrodden path – especially if the rocks are opals.

Words by: Sam Kessler