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World's finest opals on display in Qatar

Arts

THE world’s finest opals have left Australia for the first time to be showcased in Qatar.

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About 70 Australian opals are being displayed in Doha to celebrate the opening of Australia’s first embassy in Qatar.

The town of Coober Pedy in outback South Australia is known as the world’s opal capital and is responsible for producing the majority of the precious stones on show.

Starring in the display are two of Coober Pedy’s finest finds – The Virgin Rainbow and the Fire of Australia, each mined from the town’s Eight Mile Field and owned by the South Australian Museum.

The exhibit at the Australian Embassy in Doha will be the second time The Virgin Rainbow (below), valued at AU$1 million, has been on public display since being unearthed in 2003.

img - The Virgin Rainbow1

The opening of the new embassy further cements the strengthening relationship between South Australia and Qatar after Qatar Airlines began direct flights from Adelaide to Doha in May last year.

South Australian Museum’s Manager of Temporary Exhibitions Tim Gilchrist said the Doha display was modelled on a “Treasure Room” exhibit at its Adelaide museum in 2015.

“At the (2015) exhibit we were approached by one of the embassy staff – the embassy was under construction at that stage – and they were looking for a way to acknowledge the opening of the embassy and celebrate the trade relations of Australia and Qatar,” Gilchrist said.

The exhibit in Doha will opened on May 24 and can be viewed by the Qatar public until June 15.

Gilchrist said the aim of the exhibit was to provide a glimpse of South Australia’s natural beauty and help strengthen trade relations with the Middle East.

The opals will return to Adelaide in late June.

“Ultimately we will have it on display in the museum, probably not straight away as we will have to do gallery modifications, but ultimately it will be displayed again,” Gilchrist said.

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