Company History

OPL or Orwin Products Ltd. originated in 1972 when the founder, Colin Winter, having just started teaching Gemmology and working closely with Robert Webster, a good friend and a founding father of modern gemmology, realised that there was a need for good quality low cost gem testing instruments for students working on a tight budget. In 1976 he acquired a retail jewellery store and actively worked at the bench making and repairing gold & silver jewellery as well as learning to repair clocks and watches.

Throughout its history OPL has sought to provide equipment and gemmological education of the highest possible standard; an aim achieved simply because Colin came to appreciate most of the problems faced by students of all nationalities and backgrounds.

The small Diffraction Grating Spectroscope was the first instrument that OPL introduced to the student market and within a few months many hundreds were being sold throughout the world, followed by the OPL Monolite, a revolutionary monochromatic light source for refractometers using an interference filter with a narrow band pass of 589nm ± 5nm. Next came the OPL Hylite, a High Intensity Lamp specifically for use with spectroscopes & microscopes. A narrow, flexible fibre optic light guide fitting into the back of the lamp-head made this light a new and exciting addition to the retail jewellers’ range of gem testing instruments. With this guide in place it was now possible to obtain & study the spectrum of small set stones in rings, for example.

Hylite Lamp
Fibre Optic Guide
Spectroscope Stand
A larger Teaching or Bench model OPL Spectroscope appeared in the 1980s closely followed by a dedicated OPL Stand to hold the spectroscope at the correct angle and having a rotating table for the gemstone in the optical path of the spectroscope.

OPL Pocket long & shortwave UV Lights were also an addition to the range in the 80s & 90s but demand was low & these were discontinued, the greatest demand for these was in Sri Lanka where gem dealers, cutters & miners needed a battery operated SWUV Light to distinguish between natural & synthetic or treated Blue Sapphires.

Greater success was achieved by OPL Calcite Dichroscopes, with the most recent additions to the range being Blue & Red Interference Filters & Conical Discs; all for use with the Teaching Spectroscope. These are all now an integral part of the internationally renowned OPL range of products.

Conical Discs
Calcite Dichroscope
Students’ Guide
Gemstone Reference Set
After teaching gemmology very successfully for more than a quarter of a century, Colin realised that there was a definite need for low cost ‘how to do it’ books for students, as most texts available were either too technical for beginners or simply had insufficient information & practical advice. After a promise made to his various groups of students in the 1990s the ‘Students’ Guide to Spectroscopy’ was written and has now been published in-house. Hilary Taylor, now Hilary Winter, the illustrator of all of the diagrams & spectra is also a director of OPL & because she is a highly skilled gemmologist & goldsmith she too understands the problems faced by students. This book, now in its 15th year, has many superb clear, easily understood diagrams & dozens of full colour spectra of almost all of the gemstones that a student is likely to encounter. There are also many pages of practical help, tips & advice making this a ’must have’ book. Needless to say it is selling like hot cakes and had a very favourable review in the October 2003 ‘Journal of Gemmology’. See this review in the Books section.

Gemmology is not a static subject; the scientific quest for new methods of synthesis, new treatment techniques combined with new gemstones & new simulants, means that OPL will continue to do its bit for the student; actively seeking to develop new instruments and new accessories for the existing ones. Several new titles in its range of books for the student are either already being written or planned for the future and new equipment is being developed.

Colin & Hilary Winter have also given lectures to learned societies, trade groups and mineral & gem clubs about gemmological equipment, techniques and gemstones in many countries including GemA and the Queckett Microscopical Club in the UK, AGA and GIA in the USA and The Sri Lankan Gemmologists Association in Colombo.