For decades the premium crop of opals hailed from one primary location: Australia. With any industry, a market stronghold drives prices up and this remained true for opals. That is, until the mid-90's, when a new player infiltrated the opal marketplace. Miners discovered a deposit of opal in Ethiopia, and two more discoveries followed that precipitating event. Fast-forward a few decades, and Australian opals are now sharing the shelves with Ethiopian opals. With these two options at hand, it’s impossible to not draw comparisons as there is still a slim margin of countries contributing to the overall opal supply.
Is one superior to the other? As it happens, Australian opal still dominates the market and produces some of the highest-quality opals in the world. Yet this elite status comes at a cost, and Australian opals are notoriously expensive. Which beckons the question: Is Ethiopian opal
There's only one way to answer that, but it's not as cut and dry as you might think. To decipher whether or not Ethiopian opals are expensive, we have to examine the value of all opals: What makes them valuable? What features are most desired? What do things like brilliance, play of color and origin have to do with value? Read on as we answer all your questions and get to the bottom of Ethiopian opal value.
How To Value Opals
Opals are some of the most intriguing gemstones in the world. They can have a darker body tone, or a milky, light tone. In both cases, one thing's sure to be present: a fiery flash of color radiating across the stone. When you hold an opal in your hand, don't be surprised if you find it impossible to count the myriad of colors sparkling at you.
There are millions of gemstones in the world, but only one family produces enough play of color to have its own terminology. Opalescence refers to the rainbow-like kaleidoscope of colors you'll see in an opal gemstone. Quite frankly, you won't find another gem as striking and colorful as an opal. Why elaborate so extensively on color? Because it's this one defining feature that can make or break the value of an opal. And that's not all; gemologists value opals based on:
- Play of color
- The direction of colors and patterns
- Present inclusions
For the sake of this article, we're going to sharpen the focus on the origin of opals. Now that we've laid the foundation for what makes opals valuable, we can answer the question at hand:
Is Ethiopian Opal Expensive?
Unlike its Australian cousin, Ethiopian opal is inexpensive and affordable. As a result, this is perhaps the leading reason why Australian opals now sources 95% of the global opal supply. While that number seems startlingly high, consider that just 25 years ago, Australia supplied all of the opals in the world. In other words, the market is slowly equalizing over time. What does that mean in terms of value? Well, if Australia has an abundant supply of opals, does Ethiopia also? On the contrary.
Ethiopian Opals Are Rare
Opals are a dime a dozen in Australia, which doesn't diminish their value, it enhances it. While it seems counter intuitive, this abundance of gemstones means that Australian sellers have control over the pricing system. Ethiopia, on the other hand, has only a fraction of Australia's supply. And while these gemstones are rarer than Australian opals, they are surprisingly less expensive. Scratching your head yet? Many people wonder: why are Ethiopian opals cheaper? Well, although Ethiopian opals are rarer than Australian, there is still an ample supply available. What does that mean for buyers looking to buy high-quality opal that's affordable? Another option is available. Before, you had one option for buying opal. Now, there are two leading players in the arena, with small pockets contributing from around the world
. So, if they are affordable, how much do Ethiopian opals cost?
Price of Ethiopian Opal Per Carat
Considering the factors we discussed earlier about opal value (play of color, pattern, intensity, brilliance, and origin), how much do these gemstones cost? Ultimately, the price range varies dramatically as no two gems are the same. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from 10 to 250 per carat. Of course, lower cost opals will have more inclusions, flaws and duller color. Conversely, the highest-quality jewels will garner magnificent play of color, body tone and brilliance. There are several variables you want to look for when buying Ethiopian opals. Still, the best available will almost appear synthetic because of their ability to mimic a brilliant, flashing light.
We've now arrived at a crucial point: there's no shortage of imposter jewels marketed as authentic Ethiopian opals on the internet. To save yourself from a scam, ensure you receive proof of origin before you make your purchase. Does anything else influence the price of Ethiopian opal?
The Bottom Line
If you adore opals but aren't savvy about dropping top prices for high-quality gems, explore Ethiopian opals. These unique gemstones are rapidly becoming the most desired opals around. What's more, you don't want to wait to buy Ethiopian opal because prices will likely increase over time.
Right now, these are affordable gemstones. But what happens when Ethiopia establishes its claim as the leading supplier of opals? With more and more discoveries throughout the country, opals are flooding the marketplace. What was once considered an incredibly rare jewel is not becoming mainstream. Wherever you buy gemstones, you've likely noticed an infiltration of Ethiopian opals. What does that mean for you as a buyer? Right now, these gemstones are affordable, but there's no telling what future demand will do to the price points.
If there's one thing we've learned from working with jewels over the decades, it's that market trends ebb and flow. What's popular today might fade out of style in 5-years. However, one thing is for sure: opals are a magnetizing jewel loved universally, and we don't think that'll change any time soon.
Are you smitten with opals? You're in good company! Learn more about Ethiopian opals or browse our catalog to snag these rare, affordable jewels
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