When it comes to opals, it’s easy to think of the discount opal shops lining Swanston Street, each one plastered with more enthusiastic sale signage than the last.
But the dreamy, polychromatic gem has been quietly making a comeback for a few years now, and Aussie jewellery label Sarah & Sebastian is helping to take it from nanna’s jewellery box into a more contemporary zone.
Design duo Sarah Gittoes and Robert Sebastian Grynkofki launched Sarah & Sebastian almost a decade ago, combining inspiration from the environment with a modern, minimalist aesthetic that favours clean, fine formations and delicate detailing.
“We approach our collections in the way that a fashion designer does, referencing seasonal trends and forecasting new products,” Grynkofki says. “We always try to maintain a balance of craftsmanship and innovation.”
Their new collection, Skin, centres around opals sourced from a third-generation family-run business in Coober Pedy. Find the kaleidoscopic gems interspersed with diamonds in elaborate, intricate rings, delicate ear cuffs and striking statement necklaces.
The collection also draws inspiration from the textures and sensory properties of sea creatures – there’s the fine yellow-gold Stinger ring inspired by jellyfish tentacles, and bumpy, bubbly chain earrings and rings reminiscent of octopus skin.
Most pieces come in variations of silver or gold, or graduate from one to the other in an ombre effect, such as in this snakeskin-texture necklace.
The couple’s flagship studio is in Sydney, and you’ll also find pieces stocked in top-tier boutiques around the world, from Moda Operandi in the US to Net-a-Porter in the UK. The new Armadale store, by architecture firm Russell & George (of design-award-winning restaurant Ishizuka, much-anticipated eatery Society, and numerous Aesop locations here and overseas), is their first Melbourne location.
“Opening our first interstate store has been a long-time dream and Melbourne felt like the natural destination,” says Gittoes. “Robert and I have always had an affinity with Melbourne’s design and art culture.”
The interior is a moody, subterranean-like space inspired by the ocean and underwater caves, with a Melbourne-centric black-on-black colour scheme expressed in varying shapes, sheens, textures and intensities. The ceiling and walls are made from crushed aluminium cladding; stained-timber flooring imported from Japan has a silky, satin-like finish; and pendant lighting is made from hand-blown grey glass.
“We were familiar with Russell & George’s work from previous visits to Melbourne – evocative high-end spaces with intriguing combinations of form, materials and light. There was a strong synergy,” says Grynkofki. “Their unique interpretation manifested in cavernous walls amplified by light and darkness, with illuminated jewellery cabinets as the focal point.”
Toward the back of the shop, a hidden doorway opens into a tiny cave furnished with custom furniture by Melbourne studio Coco Flip. It’s reserved for those shopping for engagement rings and other private appointments.
The Skin collection is available online and in-store. Prices range from $140 to $5900. Some pieces are made to order, so wait times may apply.
Sarah & Sebastian Armadale
Shop 2/1025 High Street, Armadale (enter via Baldwin Street)
1300 050 220
Mon to Sat 9.30am–5.30pm