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Cacholong Moon Dance

Lyle Sopel -

Dear Collector Friend,

Having recently completed my piece called “Moon Dance”, featuring 2 swans in early morning flight, I have been reflecting on my unique position as an artist and the journey of deepening my knowledge of precious and semi-precious gemstones, their properties and histories.


Cacholong, one of the prominent stones in this piece, is among the more unique materials that I have worked with in some time. A variety of opal, cacholong has a mother-of-pearl lustre and an absorbent, versatile nature that has made it a perfect material for perfume stones throughout history. Believed by the Egyptians to bring welfare and health to the people, and used widely by Russian art masters in the 19th century, cacholong is being appreciated today by experienced artists and designers who see the potential in its versatility.


Cacahlong Rough

Rough cachalong specimen

This milky white stone, which can be very difficult to acquire, has recently caught the attention of some of Europe’s most prominent jewellery and fashion companies, such as Chanel, who features cacholong in their carved camellia trademarks. I love the dichotomy of working with an ancient stone that it is also being commended by some of the world’s modern fashion icons.

It was on my last visit to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, that my desire to work with cacholong was planted. Wandering wide-eyed through the sumptuous exhibitions, I was captivated by examples of the finest, most perfectly detailed and minute cacholong carvings. From delicately detailed lilies of the valley to vignettes of exquisitely detailed forest scenes, I was mesmerized and knew that I wanted this stone to be part of my repertoire.

Shell brooch of carved Russian cacholong opal

Shell brooch of carved Russian cacholong opal


Having heard that cacholong was a fairly easy stone to work with, I incorporated it into my palette upon my return. My experience working with the stone unfolded differently than expected. Perhaps more forgiving to the artist who uses only hand tools, cacholong was quite rough on my diamond tipped tools, which are essential when doing fine detail work on a large scale. Due to its effect on my diamond blades and polishing devices, I reserve my use of cacholong for those subjects that simply will not allow me to select another stone. Some pieces require a certain material to express a particular vision and I have learned over the years to heed that request.


Since my use of cacholong is done sparingly, it is always a special treat, even if it requires diamonds in exchange!

Art, Nature, and Beauty Always,


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