Author: Hobart M. King, Ph.D., GIA Graduate Gemologist
The New Opal Heavyweight
Australia has been the dominant force in the opal market for over 100 years. During that time as much as 95% of the worldwide opal production has been mined in Australia. Today, Ethiopia is on its way to becoming the second heavyweight in the opal market.
A small discovery in 1994 put Ethiopia on the worldwide opal map. This was followed by important discoveries in 2008 and 2013. These are now producing beautiful precious opal, fire opal, and black opal with spectacular play-of-color in a variety of patterns and body colors.
Ethiopian opals are not only beautiful, but they generally cost less than similar-quality opal from Australia. People now go to the store looking for “Welo opals” or “Ethiopian opals.” They also use the internet and search for these opals by name. This surge of public awareness has developed in just a few years without a major mining company or jewelry brand spending millions of dollars to promote them. This popularity is being driven by the beauty of Ethiopian opal and their current attractive prices.
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