You would have seen the sign ‘Opals Down Under’ out your passenger side window as you drive north on the Bruce Highway. It is just shy of Aussie World in Glenview. You can’t miss it!
But have you veered off and ducked in?
It surprised me that this spot is still considered a hidden gem here on the Sunshine Coast – tucked away just waiting to be discovered. It’s safe to say, once you do drop in, it won’t be the last time. There is just so much on offer… and for the whole family too.
In fact, Opals Down Under owner Scott Coggan says that once people discover this place they can’t get enough.
“Most days people come in and they have been living here on the Coast their whole life, seen the sign but not had a reason to drop in,” Scott says.
“Once they do, they come back again and again, which we love. We want people to have an experience here, we make it that way by offering something unique.”
And that is something they do well. Starting with the shop itself. Visually, it’s a treat for the eyes: beautiful jewellery, huge crystals, tiny gems, a rainbow of colour – and that’s just as you enter the door. Outside is a whole other world with gem fossicking, dinosaur statues, a huge grass space, picnic tables, coffee machine. Visiting Opals Down Under can really be a whole day out.
Scott is considered an artisan and one of Australia’s finest opal cutters. Having started out in the industry in his early twenties, his love of Australia’s precious gem started after a trip to Longreach with his father to visit a friend who was an opal miner.
“We ended up finding a large boulder, cut it open and there was a huge green vein of gem-quality Queensland boulder opal in there worth a pretty price,” Scott says.
“I guess I got the bug after that and didn’t look back. I invested in opals, learnt how to cut and process them, buy and market them, and in 1985 I took on Opals Down Under.
“We are pretty special here because we can source raw material, cut and process it on site and design the final product too. Very few businesses in Australia are able to do that, go from miner to end product.
“Being able to source for our clientele, process it, and then design it here for our market means we also keep prices as low as possible compared to other major cities. But it’s also a more exclusive experience for our market, so we have a lot of repeat customers, including the ones we get online, especially from America.”
Perhaps a level of exclusivity comes also from the fact that you aren’t just seeing the more well-known white opal found predominantly in Coober Pedy.
“A lot of people don’t realise that opals are the third most valuable gem in the world, with black opal being rarer than diamonds. It’s something that blows a lot of customers away,” Cam tells salt.
“There are actually five main families of solid opal: black opal, semi-black opal, crystal opal, white opal and Queensland boulder opal.
“We have long term staff here, and we all pride ourselves in educating our clients about our gems so they know what they are getting is one of a kind and unlike anything you will see elsewhere. We’ve found this is something the 25–35-year-olds are certainly wanting, especially when it comes to engagement rings.”
While the primary business is of course selling opals and intricate jewellery, Opals Down Under found itself on a different course lately when it became inundated with families and teens after an innocent TikTok video went viral.
“It was quite strange really, about a year ago a young lady made a TikTok while she was here doing some fossicking in the scratch pad,” Scott says.
“The fossicking area opened in 2001 but was really only ever for a bit of fun when families came in. We put maybe a tonne of stone in there each year which we ship in from South Africa and it lasts us through. Kids come, play and that’s it.
“This video got over 800,000 views and suddenly we had Gen Z coming through the doors in droves and up to 200 kids a day in school holidays for fossicking.
“We love the Gen Z, they come in, stay a while, have a great time, buy a few things and they keep coming back too.
“During the COVID restrictions we actually had to put up a barrier and let people in on a rotating basis because we were so busy. We are now importing about 10 tonnes of stone just to keep up.”
In fact, you can now come and set up a birthday party, picnic, event or whatever your heart desires in the dedicated outdoor area next to the scratch pad.
“We have had ponies in here, jumping castles, 50-60 people in for those kind of parties with barbecues and all sorts. It’s great fun,” Scott says.
So, what’s next for Scott and Opals Down Under?
“We are actually planning a huge renovation for our 40th birthday here in October 2025,” Scott says.
“We will be upgrading the store, create a new experience for people coming in, with the plan to make it timeless for another 20 years, just like our opals.”
What can you find in the Scratch Pad?
Boulder opal, malachite, agate, tiger iron, rose quartz, tiger’s eye, hematite, petrified wood, amethyst, chrysoprase, jasper.