This will be the first of Quarterly reports on the state of the opal industry with input from our Verified Sellers from all over the world. There are so many changes are effecting the opal industry today and that will effect Opal buyers. This report will cover the two Australian Opal Trade shows and the Hong Kong show in July.
UPDATED JUNE 2016
Opal Industry report First quarter 2016
Jan to March are traditionally the hottest months in Australian opal fields so very little opal mining takes place and no major discoveries to report
Mid march the central Queensland opals fields had massive rains and many town and opal mines were cut off in these floods.
Next Quarter we hope to see lot mining operations back in full swing and there should be no shortage water to clean and wash opal dirt
Demand is high for good quality black opals and a top black opal gem is now over $2000 per carat and rising
Demand is for more traditional oval shape with black body tone N1 to N2 and strong Brightness
Ethiopian Opals are in strong demand in No Reserve section and sellers have good source of Ethiopian rough opal which is well priced
Steady demand for Boulder opals form Koroit and Yowah opal fields as these are large sized and $20 to $50 range is popular
Many of our sellers do International Trade shows in USA ,Asia and Europe.
True blue opals, has participated in the Tuscon show for some 20 years and displays opals at Holiday inn and AGTA
Demand was steady with few opal collectors seeking top black opal gems or specimens, but Chinese buyers were absent more so this year than last year.
Demand for Boulder opals was steady with opals from yowah and Koroit opal fields popular
Ethiopian opals were well represented in large volume but quality opals were highly priced and hard for re sellers to trade as USA market is not as competitive as rest of the world.
Hong Kong show in March also had only few good sales to Chinese buyers but other Asian nations purchased reasonable variety and demand strongest in top end opal stones and specimens
Black opal jewelry from japan were in many display counters and quality is high as many people re sell their opals purchased in 1980s-1990s
Paul Sedawie visited Indonesia in March to investigate the opal mines and found many small operation digging in volcanic areas.
Many samples were bought back to analysis this carbon bitumen fossil wood know as Indonesian wood fossil or kalimaya opals
Many miners cook this opalized wood in sand and add oil to enhance the colours,so it is interesting to have this opal checked out by scientists and more updates to follow on our findings as these opals are treated ,but some are natural.
It will be exciting to find results of this Indonesian wood fossil, so at present opals are listed as is and we cannot confirm natural or not at present
Google analytics show that searches in this country search words Black Opals more now than anywhere in the world.
USA and Australia have lot part timers, hobbyists and cutters who just love to deal in Opals
We are now seeing the same in some Asian countries where professional people enjoy collecting or cutting opals. Counties like Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia now have internal markets for opals
This is good to see and the availability lower priced Ethiopian opals has opened this market and once buyers are hooked on opals they look for different types.
As stated, china market has slowed down but many other Asian countries enjoy opals and market will should be growing in these countries
Wayne Sedawie OPLALPLUS
The show started in beautiful sunny weather and was very pleasant for everyone. A week before the Ridge had fog for the first time and freezing winds with temperatures at 2 degrees in morning. Near record crowds really enjoyed the sunshine and sales were strong with Boulder opals.
Unfortunately production on black opals has been low the last few months so there was not much rough opal direct from miners, only low grade stock. 80% of stalls were offering Boulder opal as production has been reasonable for the last few months.
An experienced opal driller explained the problem that the Ridge has at present. In a New opal field the miner has to negotiate with farmers and pay to enter their land and have to work set hours of 9-5 and not work on weekends. This greatly restricts Mining. In the past miners would not have so many government restrictions as they have now.
It now costs $6000 for a driller to take out a lease on an area he wants to drill. He has to pay the mines department $1700 just for 28 days to prospect on the allotted land.
Fuel is expensive and costs about $1500 per month. With an additional workers wage the cost blows out to $6000 for the month. And if he finds no opal he has to decide to pay $1700 for another 28 days.
Production has been very low at the Ridge but this driller also informed us he now has 6 months work prospecting leases for miners so fingers are crossed that they will find new areas and more opal production.
Top black opals sell instantly for super high prices and demand is so strong for red on black that miner can ask thousands dollars on site for top black opal and many buyers are chasing these rare black opals.
Once again good attendances and show was predominately mostly boulder opal sales. Opal sellers were from all over Australia: Mintiby, Coober Pedy,Boulder opals fields and Lightning ridge.
One common line of discussion was low opal production on all fields. This could be big problem for the industry if this trend continues. Koroit, Yowah, Mintiby and Andoamooka are only small fields with small single miner operators.
Yowah and Koriot have been popular but prices for cutting opals in China has escalated from 0.80 up to $3.50 per opal so many miners are trying new countries to cut this opal in Thailand, Vietnam, India and Fiji.
Some opal miners have good quality boulder opal so this has helped fill market for quality opals when black opal production has been low. Both Australian shows had lot of visitors from china investigating the market and buying some opals in middle range. Last year Chinese buyers were very strong at both show spending millions but not so this year. Best sales were to several USA buyers who were after quality black and boulder opals
The biggest surprise was shops and sellers at Lightning Ridge were buying good blacks around $1000 to take back to sell, this is first time this has happened shows how much demand there is at ridge for good commercial blacks
This show was really packed his year. Even with online registration it took 1.5 hours to get inside. The busiest stands were the Japanese auction houses. They had buyers three deep buying second hand Gemstone jewelry and handing over wads of cash.
I was standing behind a couple who handed over three huge bundles of US$100 notes that must have been US$100,000. Over the last few decades Japanese buyers bought the best Opals, Emeralds, Diamonds and now with an aging population they are selling and the quality is excellent. There is more gem cabochon N1 gem black opal in HK show than on the Australian opal shows.
In last few years Chinese have been buying a lot of top black opal but did not buy much Boulder opal. This year new Chinese buyers are dabbling in opals so there is definite extra demand for opals. Due to Government anti corruption Policies in China the demand has ceased for top gem opals but this might be just a temporarily halt. We expect more demand to build up during the year from Chinese buyers. Lots of sales on our sites have been to Americans, English and Australians. It turns out these peopleare actually Chinese buyers sending opals back to China.
The Opal industry biggest problems are Government restrictions on our Industry.
Ethiopian Government has made several attempts to control exports of rough from banning the rough which was a disaster for their opal industry in that country. Now they are making buyers pay 40% of the rough value in cut stones. Buyers now complain there is not enough cutters in Ethiopia and the price is too high on cut stones. A $10,000 parcel rough opal now requires $4,000 worth of cut stones to be purchased
So many new fees for miners and regulations as example. Mines Department - The Division of Resources and Energy in Lightning Ridge has commenced collecting landholder compensation on grant and renewal of title as of 5 January 2015. Compensation is $100 per mineral claim and $100 plus 10 cents per hectare for an Opal Prospecting Licence.
The industry infrastructure levies have been reintroduced. The road levy is $25 per claim, the rehabilitation stockpile (mullock dump) levy $10 and the environmental levy is $10.
The cost of renewing a claim will now be $345 - $100 fee; $100 Dept. administrative levy; $100 compensation; and $45 industry levies. The Cost for registering a mineral claim excluding the security bond is $375
The Lightning Ridge Miners association is concerned about The environmental Unit of Resources and energy as they want mining banned in black soil up to 100 meters up the ridge to gravel soils. This is where the gravel ridge meets the black grey soil which they consider as pristine wetlands but it covers around 50% of the area available to mine for opal.
The LRMA is still waiting for the draft proposal and are also trying to negotiate Access Management plan after waiting three years for OPB map. You can see Bureaucracy is limiting what opal miners can and cannot do . Now opal miners have to negotiate with farmers to enter their property and prospect.
The good news is that lot more opal prospecting is taking place now than last year and I know of several people are considering going back to opal mining as demand is so strong for good opals.
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