For over 20 years Australian boulder opal miners from Yowah to Koroit have shipped their rough opal to china to get cut and polished.
This has helped keep the price of boulder opal low so opal miners could sell good volumes of well cut polished opals.
But todays the industry is in crisis to get opals cut overseas.
In the past 44 gallon drums were shipped to China for cutting and polishing but now customs officials are charging 40 % import duty on this rough opal at their estimated price not the cost price.
So many miners have had drums confiscated as it would cost 10 times more to pay import duty than what the opal rough is worth.
It is thought that lot of rough would stay in china after getting cut and this most likely has happened in the past so no duty would have been paid on these sales inside China.
So no large shipments will be sent to china now as to risky and expensive.
But several miner’s have reported that even small parcel’s kilo rough are also confiscated by customs in china.
The days of cheap opal cutting are over in china 10 years ago a good opal was around $0.50 to cut and polish.
But now with expensive shipping and clearance fees the price is around $3.00 but your rough could be confiscated!
This is still cheap compared to Australian Opal cutting fee of $10 per stone
But in future lower grade opals will not be commercially cut
On top of this customs problem in china we also have high wage price increases for labourers to cut opal is low paid and amazingly Chinese cutters say they are having problem to find labours to cut boulder opals
The Chinese cutters also have another problem in that once a cutter is good they leave to higher paid job cutting jade which is cleaner to work with and higher wages
Australian opals from Cooper Pedy have been cut in china for last 50 years but Lighting ridge black opals are rarely sent overseas now a s cost each opal is higher and needs trained and skilled opal cutters and unfortunately there are not may skilled cutters in china now
We have heard reports of good opal carvers in Australia offered salary of A$1500 per week to teach Chinese cutters and carvers
Indian cutters have been strong in taking control of the Ethiopian opal with estimated 80% Ethiopian rough opal cut in India but Indians cutters do not get good polish on Australian boulder opals
Now we hear opal cutting shops starting in Bali and Vietnam so will be interesting if they can do the same volume a s before a s these are mostly small family factories and large cutting ones as in china
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