"I loved looking for stones and I'd often spend my weekends finding agates and petrified wood to practise my cutting, polishing and shaping skills on," said Adrian.
A self-described opal addict, Adrian would often visit Winton to look for the precious gems in mullock heaps. During his first trip there in 2017, he learnt about the Queen of Gems International Jewellery Design Awards and decided he would enter when the time was right.
Four years later he entered the awards for the first time and won the Emerging Jeweller category, taking home $1,000 in prize money and a certificate.
His award-winning entry, Reef Glow, is an ocean-inspired necklace featuring a blue Queensland boulder opal set in finely polished gold and platinum, accentuating the stone's beautiful reflective properties.
"I was inspired to create this piece by rays of starlight and the rich glow of a coral reef. The rolling curves of the star's rays take influences from the slow waves of the ocean and the natural flow of the body of a sea urchin," explained Adrian.
"I certainly wasn't expecting to win anything, and the quality of the other entries was awe-inspiring, so winning was an amazing surprise."
"It's incredible to think that when you're cutting into a stone, you're exposing something formed millions of years ago, and you're the first person to see it — and that's pretty special,” he said.
Knowing he wanted a career working with gemstones, Adrian started in the jewellery industry straight after high school and is now completing his apprenticeship with Matthew Alexander Jeweller in Gaythorne.
As part of his apprenticeship, Adrian is building and refining his skills by completing his Certificate III in Jewellery Manufacture (MEM30605) through TAFE Queensland.
His studies see him attend intensive block training at TAFE Queensalnd's South Bank campus for four weeks at a time, learning new jewellery manufacturing techniques and complementing his on-the-job work experience.
"It's great to come to class and learn other manufacturing techniques like casting, which is something that only happens in large manufacturing companies."
"Even though I'm working as a jeweller, there is always something new to learn. The facilities and equipment at TAFE are the same as in the industry, and we’re able to make beautiful pieces in TAFE’s workshops."
"I also enjoy the social aspect of working with students from different backgrounds, with different strengths, and we help each other hone our skills," said Adrian.
Being immersed in TAFE Queensland's facilities, guided by teachers from the industry and surrounded by like-minded students has helped Adrian grow his capabilities and round out his skill set.
"Studying with TAFE Queensland is excellent — so many times I've finished a training block, gone back to work and seen how much I'd learnt and how my skills improved."
Now three years through his four-year apprenticeship, Adrian aspires to use his skills to grow his opal cutting and dealing business, Match Maker Opals, designing and creating original hand-crafted pieces.
"I already have a design in mind that I plan on entering the Professional Category next year, so now I need to find the perfect stone, start cutting and polishing it and bringing it to life."
Adrian's advice to anyone thinking about studying is to follow what you love, practise patience and trust the process.
"You need to be passionate and stick with it. It will take longer than you think to master the skills you need, but if you're doing what you love, it's worth it."
"Learning never stops, so keep a student mindset and focus on continuously improving. Most of all, trust yourself and have faith that you can pick the job skills up," concluded Adrian.