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Austin to Return $50,000 Gem to Australian Sister City

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News
This opal was given to Austin by its sister city, Adelaide, in Australia. It will be returned to Adelaide officials next month.

The story of Austin's Australian opal will come to an end next month when members of the Adelaide City Council come to town to celebrate its sister city-ship with Texas' Capital City. Austin City Council will return the opal, a gem gifted to Austin as a result of some Adelaidian drama some 30 years ago.

This part of the story started with a plea.

In May, a local Adelaide newspaper published an article about the opal’s history. In it, city officials propositioned Austin.

Credit The Advertiser
A screenshot of an article from local Adelaide newspaper The Advertiser. The photograph features the city Lord Mayoress holding the necklace from which the opal came.

“They asked if they could have it back. And I read that, and I didn’t see any real reason why we should hold on to it if they were asking for it back,” says Council member Leslie Pool.

So, Pool is writing a resolution that would send the stone home. City of Austin officials would first have to remove the gem from the bank deposit box it’s sitting in.

When Adelaide officials heard that its gem was not on public display in Austin, they thought, why not give it back? The City of Austin says it was planning to showcase the stone soon, in the mayor’s ceremonial conference room. Seems fitting for a piece of jewelry that, according to one Australian appraisal, now may be worth $50,000.

So what has Austin ever gifted the Australian city in return? Pool says certainly nothing that expensive.

“At the time we may have given them a bull or maybe a belt buckle or a hat…I’m not sure what the trade was.”

A spokesperson for the City of Austin says he believes we gave them a statue of a longhorn, but he also couldn’t be entirely sure. Pool says her resolution to return the opal will be on Council’s agenda when Adelaide officials visit Austin next month.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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