Ethiopian Opals Grading Chart

Opal Charts on Opal Auctions
  • Black Opal Brightness and Pattern Charts
  • Boulder Opal Chart
  • Brazil and Mexican Opal Chart
  • Ethiopian Opal Grading Chart
  • Koroit and Yowah Opal Chart

Opalauctions has strict guidelines that must be adhered to be a Verified Ethiopian Opal Seller.

Our Opal sheriff monitors listings so all sellers offer opals with accurate descriptions and images .

All Dark colored Ethiopian opals are to be called DARK BROWN on Opalauctions

Smoked Ethiopian Opal cannot be called Black Smoked Opal

No reference to Body tone chart as this chart was made for Australian black opals not Ethiopian Opals

Full Disclosure of any treatment has to be listed even if oil is used

-No cracked or crazed Ethiopian Opal to be listed in no reserve.

-Listings cannot just show black back ground.

One image can be on black but neutral or hand shots must be in the listing so buyer can see actual true colour and not over enhanced on black image.

- Sellers offer 7 day refund policy if buyer not 100% HAPPY WITH WIN.


Our latest program is the Opal Sheriff.

This program is based on the successful Gemstone Sheriff on GemRockAuctions.

The (OS) Opal Sheriff will assist sellers in helping to describe the pattern of Ethiopian opals .

There are many unique patterns to Ethiopian Opals and on Opal Auctions descriptions have to be accurate.

The OS will also assist opals sellers in RRC recommended Retail price.

As wholesalers we can only allow maximum mark up 3.5 times on wholesale price.

Opal associations and Jewellers association and valuers recommend RRP maximum 3.5 times wholesale.

This also applies to maximum price obtained for a sold similar pattern opal.


One the most expensive Ethiopian Opal sale was this Gem 23 carats rare Honey comb pattern Ethiopian opal sold for $35,000 by Opalethiopia.

This opal has the most spectacular Honey comb pattern for an Ethiopian Opal.

One of the most popular patterns in Ethiopian opals, it is a naturally formed potch line with web inclusions known as an orderly geometrical spatial arrangement of atoms which makes crystalline honey comb shapes. This is also very rare in any other type of opals.

These honey comb shapes are also known on occasions to have brighter or different colour in crystalline formation, this is also a rare occurrence in nature.

This is known as Bravais Lattice in that the opal formation is made up of periodic arrangements, like honey comb, consequently the pattern is the same when viewed from any of the lattice points so we can appreciate how rare this pattern is.

Changes To Ethiopian Grading policy

Re BLACK Ethiopian opals

To use the world BLACK an Ethiopian opal seller will need certificate that opal is natural

If no certificate the world black opal cannot be used

Link to our approved laboratories for certificates

Re SMOKED Ethiopian Opal

Smoked Ethiopian Opals can no longer have word black mentioned and can only be listed as

Smoked Ethiopian Opal

Opalauctions Feb 2014

Ethiopia: Opals Establishing a Brand Name in Export Market

In the beginning of 1990’s opal, a distinctive gemstone known as “Chocolate Opal” originated from the region of North Shoa Zone of Amhara and Mezezo State. It is called chocolate opal because the color of its nodule is chocolate. These types of opals are usually found in a round nodular surface within three meters of linked volcanic ash. Only about one percent of these nodules contain color.

Opal which originates from Mezezo produces outstanding patterns and radiant colors typically called “Ethiopian fire opal”. This precious stone was discovered and revealed by Senior Geologist from the Ministry of Mines Tewelde-Birhan Abay in the world market.

Meanwhile Wollo opal became famous in the international market due to its unusual color patterns creating a brand name for itselfin the global market.The colours are the opposite of Australian opals with red Ethiopian opal being common and blue quite rare.

Mexico and Australia are considered the pioneers in the opal industry. However Ethiopian opal discovered near Delanta along Wello Province in 2008 are becomingwell-known due to its remarkable jewelry grade rough among the opal family.

During the last two years, Ethiopian opal has established itself to bejust as tough and dependable as Australian opal. In the year 2010 uncertainty and worries about the feasibility of Wello opal were set to rest at the Tucson jewel show. The radiant honeycomb harlequin and brilliant, well-polished and cut Wello opal caused remarkable excitement at the show. Since then the internet has become inundated with a growing number of videos showing this radiant and magnificent jewelry-grade opal.

This opal can be found in a highland 2,500-3,299 meters high. Only locals are permitted to mine the field and the administration has supplied essential tools. A diversity of crystals, whether it is a black or brown have been extracted from the site. Jewelry grade Wello rough opal can be obtained from a number of suppliers and is currently in high demand. Most wholesale dealers are expecting cost increases as more jewelers and consumers become more comfortable with buying Wello opal.

Geologists have noted that Ethiopia has two classes of opal i.e. fire (Shoa opal) and precious opal (Wollo opal). Their value varies based on colour variations. These opals are usually mined in different parts of the nation such as Harar, Jimma, Afar, and Somali. It has been mined conventionally by most individuals and organizations.

These opals are usually found at 2-3 meters deep from its surface, making it more accessible for poorly prepared miners to do mining. In 2012 Ethiopia earned 7 million USD from opal sales, while growing still a small amount given the quality and demand for the opal.

Nevertheless the Ministry of Mines is keeping the industry busy trying to limit exports of opals by looking to grow a domestic processing industry and through setting the regular price among 200 licensed exporters. In fact, one gram of opal is usually sold at $200 US, but if value added procedures such as cutting and polishing has been completed, it can be sold at a cost of more than $1000 USD in the international market, slightly lower than current gold prices.

Opal also requires to be stored in a place where the condition is comparable to the place from where it was mined. Disinclination of the local operations to maintain opal deposit areas and the failure to accept royalty payments is an added sensitive issue.


Harlequin is regarded as the rarest pattern in the opal industry with Ethiopia having its own unique pattern-honeycomb Pattern

Honey comb pattern is the most sort after pattern on cabochon Ethiopian opal

Many opal miners will never find one of these patterns in their lifetime of work.

Black opals are regarded as the most expensive and rarest harlequin pattern opals.

Ethiopian opals have a patchwork harlequin pattern.

True harlequin pattern is a mosaic broad pattern, angular close set of colours.

Floral patterns are sometimes called floral harlequin but Welo Floral or Welo patchwork would be the correct naming for these gem Ethiopian floral pattern opals


Crystal Ethiopian opal is ideal for faceting due to natural formation of silica spheres and thickness it can be faceted in broad pattern cutting to display hues of brilliant diffracted colours.

Due to broad texture pattern close cut facets are not required for light reflection so broad flash pattern is best pattern for facet cuts.

In most gemstones the finer the faceted cut the brighter the gemstone but this is not the case with Ethiopian opal as very light reflection is required to display brilliant interlaying flashes.


Fire within the opal. The translucent internal fire hues of these Ethiopian opals have properties that make fire hues look 3D, this 3 dimensional colour aspect is rare in most opals. It looks like fire has been captured within the opal.

Many Australian black opals have hidden colour spectrum patterns deep within the opal so a blue opal can have hidden translucent colour bars with violet or purple hues that cannot be directly seen by the naked eye. These Ethiopian opals have vivid translucent colour bars and patterns that are strikingly bright and are visible with the naked eye.

Ethiopian Welo opal is good for first time or professional opal cutters to cut and polish or facet. Due to the opals intense density and thick colour bars it is easier to polish than thin bar black opals or boulder opals.

Welo rough can be purchased from Ethiopian opal wholesalers for only $1.00 per gram.

Welo opal is only recently mined but many opal cutters and Ethiopian jewelry manufactures have made rings and pendants. Wello opal is now displayed in The Smithsonian Museum of natural history.

Ethiopian Opals are valued for their bright flashes of fire colour. Ethiopian Opals are nobby-formed rather than seam-formed and have characteristically brown or dark-nodule potch. These opals are not considered as structurally sound as Australian opals but have incredible fire colours and patterns, their vivid green and red flashes are prized by collectors. Ethiopian opals have been mined in Mezezo and the new opal field discovered at Gondar is producing top pattern opal crystal.

Ethiopian Welo opal jewelry

This newly discovered Ethiopian opal field has been largely embraced by the opal community as an opal field which is strong and complimentary to other opal fields in the world.

Ethiopian opal manufactures and jewelry wholesalers are now making Ethiopian welo opal jewelry.

Most welo opals are made in sterling silver 925 silver mounts or silver wire wrap and is an ideal opal to bezel set. The opal fire patterns are stunning and as strong as fire colours on the Ethiopian Opals Grading Chart

The advantage that this welo Ethiopian opal has over other fields is that at present there is a steady supply of rough and this Ethiopian rough can be cut to make matching sets of earring, pendants and rings.

Australia opal fields find this so hard matching opal jewelry sets except for opal doublets and triplets that are easy to match

But solid matching opals are hard to find so this is the big advantage to jewelry designers to create jewelry designs using matching opals.

Due to the structure of welo opal it is relatively easy to find a matching opal to make earrings and or a pendant.

Cabochon or domed structure does make the opal pattern more spectacular and rolling patterns are more common in this welo opal and is pleasing to the view.

Opal bracelets made with Welo opal are available and opals look so pleasing. In the early 1900’s many British opal designers made creative opal bracelets and opal necklaces and even today these fetch high prices in antique auctions. And only now can designers create these styles of matching rows of welo opals in pendants or bracelets.


I was at the recent Bangkok gem show where I saw large amounts of Ethiopian black

opal being sold with gem reports saying its natural. New findings have shown that most,

if not all, of the “black” Ethiopian opal now seen in the market is not what it appears to be!

It is either treated by innovative new “smoking” techniques to obtain it’s black-opal appearance.

As this opal is hydrophane it seems to respond to smoking well.

Smoking techniques are not new where opal is concerned, but what is now being used on the

Ethiopian opal introduces a new twist to the old smoking method, which is why the treatment was

missed by respected gem-testing laboratories. The old technique was used on low quality opal, such as Mexican hydrophane material,

to darken the colour of the base material, which causes — by contrast —

a more fiery play of colour. It was done simply by wrapping the opal tightly in brown paper,

placing it in a covered container, heating over medium heat until the paper is completely charred,

then cooling and washing it. The result was a much prettier opal!

This “old” technique (or similar approaches, all of which are still used today) affects only

the surface and is easy to detect simply by applying a little saliva to the surface of the stone:

if the fiery play of color is visibly reduced when wet but then returns to its more fiery character

when dry, you know it is “smoked.”

When the newly smoked Ethiopian material was cut open, however, it was discovered that

the darkening effect penetrated the entire stone, and so normal, routine testing techniques used

for opal didn’t indicate smoking, or dyeing, or any other treatment. Yet once the researchers

probed deeper in studying this new “suspect” material, and applied more sophisticated

techniques not routinely used for opal, the existence of carbon (from the blackening/smoking

technique used) was immediately detected. Under a loop you can see small carbon spots inside

and there is usually surface pitting on the surface.

. There is a lot of brown dark material from the shewa field which shouldn’t been confused

with this smoked black material. I have seen some natural wello which is dark based but not

black. The natural stones i have seen would rank a N3-4 on the body tone chart .There is a market

for this material but it should be disclosed as treated. If you see black wello opal you should

be cautious and ask questions and also check the sellers return policy just in case. If you

do want to check your stones send it to a lab and ask for a carbon test.

paul sedawie

APresident australian opal society


Read more about Ethiopian Opals.

Was this article helpful?

26 people found this article helpful

Related Articles

Latest Articles