OPALessence (play.with.colour) features stunning images by leading photographers of opal Robert A. Smith, Len Cram and Jenni Brammall, all based in Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, the home of Australia's precious black opal.


Robert A. Smith is one of the world’s leading photographers of opal, specialising in capturing spectacular macro images that have uncovered the gemstone’s beautiful inner world in a way never before seen.A former science teacher, in 1976 Robert moved to Lightning Ridge, home of Australia’s rare and precious black opal, to become an opal miner. He began photographing opal as a way to record the gems he mined and sold, and noticed spectacular recurring patterns.

Since that time, Robert’s long association with the mining industry has enabled him to photograph opals seldom seen outside a small group of miners and dealers, in addition to photographing hundreds of magnificent opalised fossils.

In 1999, Robert and his partner Elizabeth, a paleontologist and authority on Lightning Ridge fossils, produced the book Black Opal Fossils of Lightning Ridge, and Robert has continued photographing fossils held in the collection of the Australian Opal Centre, both as a record of the collection and for use in postcards, calendars, promotions and articles.

Over the past seven years, Robert has developed a technique to produce video of opal from still images, a form of photographic animation. This pioneering work has enabled photography of opal at extremely high magnifications, revealing a previously unseen level of pattern detail.

His images have appeared in numerous prestigious publications and his animated sequences have been shown at gem conferences around the world.


Artist, historian, novelist, photographer, scientist and opal miner - 86-year-old Len Cram is a globally respected authority on Australia's national gemstone who has been involved in every aspect of the opal industry throughout his lifetime.A long-term opal ambassador and possibly the greatest opal historian in the world, Len has dedicated the past 60 years to studying and documenting not only Australia's national gemstone but the people, events and history of opal mining towns, including Lightning Ridge where he has resided for more than five decades.

Len's research, photography and knowledge on the topic of opal have been shared through more than 25 books, many self-funded, including Beautiful Opals - Australia's National Gem, A Journey With Colour - Queensland Opal, and Beautiful Opals of the Desert, among many others. 

An avid photographer, Len has captured some of the most spectacular opals mined in Australia, including the black opal of Lightning Ridge and Queensland's boulder opal. His poetic, detailed descriptions and expert knowledge of each gemstone he photographs adds another dimension to Len's work. See Len's beautiful opal photography here.


Jenni Brammall is a palaeontologist, gemmologist, photographer and designer. In the mid 1990s, while part of a research team searching for opalised fossils in underground opal mines, Jenni fell in love with Lightning Ridge and with opal. She moved to Lightning Ridge in 1998 to take up the position of editor and journalist at The Ridge News, continuing on to a range of other activities.A highly respected opal photographer, Jenni is known for capturing effects of light, transparency and form, as well as pattern and colour. Her photographs of opal and opal jewellery have featured in numerous prestigious Australian and international books, magazines, exhibitions and auction catalogues.

Jenni’s professional life has embraced scientific research and publication, journalism, event management, exhibition development and curation, photography, writing, publishing, graphic design, jewellery design, and opal sales and marketing in Australia and the United States. Jenni has worked for numerous clients in the government, private and non-profit sectors. She is approved to value fossils and opal-related geological items for the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

For the past decade Jenni has been manager of the Australian Opal Centre, a vibrant not-for-profit facility that explores and celebrates Australia’s national gemstone through art and scientific research, education and training, tourism, heritage protection, and cultural and economic development.

Under Jenni’s leadership, and thanks to the generosity of many donors, the Australian Opal Centre has built an extraordinary collection of rare opalised fossils from the age of dinosaurs – the world’s premiere public collection of these Australian national treasures.