Altmann + Cherny - a true family business
In the 1930s, two innovative young men left their home towns in Germany to escape the uprising of Hitler and Nazi Germany. Arriving in Australia they met at a café frequented by expatriate Germans. At this small, insignificant café, a friendship was forged which was to last for the rest of their lives.
In 1948 after many days and nights dreaming of their future they came upon an idea which captured their imagination and their desire to make a successful life in their new country. Utilizing their practical and innovative skills they decided to honour their new homeland by specializing in Australian Opal. They pooled all their resources and opened the doors on a small dark office in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne and the company, Altmann + Cherny was born. They travelled to the harsh Australian outback and the opal mining towns of Coober Pedy, Andamooka and White Cliffs buying the rough, unpolished opals directly from the opal miners. They taught themselves how to cut and polish opal and then how to manufacture jewellery. They quickly became a market leader in Australian Opal and still today Altmann + Cherny leads the way in showcasing this amazing and beautiful gemstone top the world.
In 1953 John travelled to the U.S.A., Europe and Asia on the first overseas selling trip. He visited gemstone collectors, goldsmiths and high-end jewellery boutiques selling rough opal and polished opal. Whilst in the U.S. he was invited to the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., where a selection of exceptionally fine gem opals was purchased for their Gem collection.
The name, Altmann + Cherny become synonymous in the world of Gemstones, especially Opal. As such in 1954 they were granted the honour of having one of their opals selected by the South Australian Government to be presented to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her first visit to Australia. The piece of rough opal was mined at Andamooka and was cut and polished by John Altmann. The opal is known as the Andamooka Opal and is still in the private collection of QEII. John Altmann always maintained it was the finest opal he had ever polished.
As opal buyers, John and Rudi were well known to be tough negotiators with an extraordinary talent for appraising a piece of rough opal and knowing exactly the quality of the opal which lay beneath the sandstone crust. In 1956 the company purchased a bag of rough opal from Coober Pedy. Amongst all the uncut stones were 2 pieces of opal which originally had been one entire piece, the miner deliberately cut the opal in 2 as he did not believe the stone was solid opal as it was so big. This opal was so unique that John and Rudi decided not to cut the stone but to keep it whole. Later they submitted the Opal to the Guinness Book of Records and they declared it the largest and most valuable opal ever found. The opal was named the “Olympic Australis” and is on permanent display at the Altmann + Cherny showroom in Sydney, Australia.
Following in their fathers’ footsteps, Peter and Stephen Cherny, Rudi’s sons and Claire Altmann, John’s daughter joined the company and then later Fiona Altmann, John’s granddaughter also began her apprenticeship.
Today Fiona is the General Manager of Altmann + Cherny. Her love of Australian Opal started at a very early age. During school holidays she would join her Grandfather in his office. His delight in sharing his great passion for Opals was apparent as he patiently taught Fiona how to sort the opals into colours, sizes and grades. She learnt how to look at a piece of rough opal and look beyond the sandstone to see the opal beneath. It’s over 75 years since John and Rudi first travelled to the opal fields and Fiona still makes the long dusty trip to see the opal miners, many who still remember the days when John and Rudi travelled the 1000s of miles to the mines by car. Fiona’s amazing artistic talent has taken her into the world of jewellery design. She creates the most stunning pieces which showcase the extraordinary beauty of an Australian opal.
Fiona continues the very high standard set by her Grandfather, Mother and the family of Rudi Cherny.
Their mantra has always been and will always be -Excellence in service, quality and value.
Fiona Altmann is proud to present Australia National Gemstone – the Opal, to the World.