Gemstone sellers haven’t been mass-selling Ethiopian opals for long — yet this rare gem is the cheaper route to go, especially in comparison to Australian opals. Which provokes the question: why are Ethiopian opals cheaper? Are they less valuable or desirable than other varieties? On the contrary, Ethiopian opals are rare and highly sought after jewels. So what’s the deal with the price?
To answer that, we need to take a walk down memory lane to a time where Ethiopian opals weren’t even in existence.
In 1994, Ethiopian opals were first stumbled upon. This eventually became quite a large discovery, especially when talking about the history of gems, and Ethiopian opals soon entered the market. Up until this point, Australian opals dominated the market worldwide. This stunning revelation changed everything.
However, 1994 wasn’t the only breakthrough for Ethiopia’s opal game. Subsequent discoveries occurred in 2008 and 2013 in the country. These later findings helped Ethiopia even more, and now these opals can be found in different varieties, such as precious opal, black opal, and fire opal.
Currently, a regular buyer anywhere in the world can choose to either purchase Ethiopian or Australian opals. As Ethiopian tends to be the cheaper option, many customers have chosen them over Australian. But why is Ethiopian opal cheaper, especially as it’s only been on the market for a bit over twenty years?
First, we must discuss the differences between Australian opals and Ethiopian opals. As mentioned above, Australian opals were the only mainstream opals available to buy until Ethiopian opals were discovered in the mid-90s. There were alternatives such as Mexican Opal dn Honduran Opal, but these were not as readily popular as Australian Opal. To this day, most opals found on the market are actually Australian. Even with cheaper Ethiopian options, Australian opals still dominate and control about 95% of the market. Australian opals are more expensive — and a worthy investment as you’d be hard-pressed to find higher-quality opals. While some prefer the cheaper (and equally as beautiful) route of buying Ethiopian, others still enjoy purchasing Australian. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference.
There are several notable differences between these two origins:
Ethiopian opals come in a variety of colors and shapes
Ethiopian opals are generally larger (yet less expensive) than Australian.
Ethiopian opals are considered rarer
Finally, Ethiopian opals also tend to be more durable and stable than other opals. These opals tend to resist damage or breakage more easily. To recap: for a cheaper price, you can get a large and durable, high-quality Ethiopian opal. How is it possible to have a rarer, yet less expensive gem? Excellent question!
Many people love Ethiopian opals because of the many varieties they come in. These opals come in so many different patterns, colors and levels of brightness. Ethiopian opals are specifically valued for their unique designs. There are also many high-quality (and therefore pricier) Ethiopian opals that have intense colors — some of which have been described as if you’re looking at colored LED lights!
One of the more popular patterns of Ethiopian opals is the honeycomb pattern, which is beautiful and rare. This pattern also can come in a different color than the surrounding area of the opal, though this is even rarer than a regular honeycomb design.
While there are different patterns of these opals, you can also find them in many different colors. This fact has made Ethiopian opals much more popular than others, as they come in so many different varieties. You can find these opals in one single color (such as black, blue, and even pink) or in all the colors of the rainbow. How do they get such vibrant coloring?
Many bright-colored opals are color-treated with enhancements, (such as a smoke treatment), to illuminate a brighter color than their natural state. However, these opals are still just as durable and lovely as the originals.
While one can find black opals naturally, some opals gain their black color as a result of color enhancement. Natural black Ethiopian opals are very dark and will stay this color, regardless of certain test treatments. Many love black opals, but most black opals sold today tend to be those that have been color-treated to turn black (rather than the natural black Ethiopian opals). As a buyer, it’s important to know about any alterations to the gemstone before you make a purchase. This information should be fully disclosed by the seller, but if you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.
So, let’s get down to business: why are Ethiopian opals cheaper, especially if they don’t even control the market? It might seem a tad bit odd, but Ethiopian opals are cheap because they don’t control the market. Sure, they are a bit rarer than Australian, but they have to compete with opal royalty. The only way Ethiopian opal sellers can turn a profit is if they offer their gems at a lower price point.
While these opals tend to be considered rarer than Australian, they aren’t necessarily lacking in quantity. The discoveries in 1994, 2008, and 2013 have resulted in a large number of Ethiopian opals. But again, when compared to the popularity of Australian opals, they struggle to keep up.
At the moment, Ethiopian opals range from $10 to $250 per carat. However, this doesn’t mean that they’ll stay at this price forever. In the world of gemstones, anything can happen! About 30 years ago, Australian opals were the only thing one could buy. Now, that’s not the case. Ethiopian opals have gained quite a lot of visibility in the gemstone industry since they were first discovered in 1994. Because of this attention, many gem experts believe that the future is nothing but bright!
Therefore, it’s not improbable to see Ethiopian opals rise in value over the coming years. Many people love Ethiopian opals already, whether it’s because of their size, durability, or variety of color. Will they become the frontrunner in the opal industry? We’ll have to wait and see!
Ethiopian opals are cheaper than Australian opals mainly because they are attempting to thrive in a competitive market. They remain a customer favorite and it’s easy to see why: they dazzle, sparkle, and mesmerize for a good price. Who can resist that?
While they are cheaper in price, the quality you get from an Ethiopian opal makes them well worth every penny spent.
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