1986 – Paul Sedawie Begins an Opal Mining Venture at Four Mile Opal Fields
1992 – Branching Out with Opal Wholesaling
2003 – Pursuing E-Commerce and Planting the Seed for Opal Auctions
2006 – Tucson Gem Show: A Disaster Turned Success
2008 – Bringing in More Family
2020 – Thriving Through the Pandemic
Sometimes we set out on a course that inevitably takes a detour. And if you’re lucky, that detour leads to treasure. That’s exactly what happened to Paul Sedawie, who lived in Melbourne, Australia and had a strong desire to try his luck at gold mining. While Paul didn’t strike gold, a series of events led him toward something more beautiful than he could’ve ever imagined: opals. Not just opal stones, but opals that would build a family legacy and become a dominating enterprise in the gemstone industry.
In 1986, Paul had a dream to go gold mining, and in light of a recent divorce, he decided it was now or never. He began his journey north in search of gold and passed through the famous opal mining town at Lightning Ridge. However, his path was interrupted by massive floods, and he could not proceed. With his dreams of gold seeming out of reach, he opted to stay in the nearby town.
As luck would have it, he ran into his school buddy, Bob Young, who offered him a stay at his camp, and talked him into abandoning his gold pursuit to instead go opal mining at the famous Four Mile opal fields. However, the luck didn’t last long with their small jack hammer operation, that was, until he met another opal miner, Chris, and they joined forces to create an opal mining operation.
Being born and bred in Lightning Ridge – the Opal capital of the world – Chris is a second-generation opal miner who knew the lay of the land and best opal mining methods.
Currently, Chris is a seller on Opal Auctions under the name “Opal Rush.” Years before Opal Auctions launched online in the early 2000s, Paul and Chris were in the opal fields in a quest to unearth the world-renowned Australian opals.
Paul was so enamoured with opal mining and the lifestyle that his yearning for gold quickly transformed into an opal obsession. But his love for opals started long before his opal mining days.
Paul can remember buying his first boulder opal at the young age of twelve. There in the dusty open country, he poured his entire focus into unearthing the famous opals that only the climate and geology of this arid region could produce.
Leaving the gold and jack hammer operation in the dust, Paul invested in a claim with a caravan and necessary equipment at the Four Mile opal field in Lightning ridge. Like all new pursuits, striking gold – or in this case, opals – takes time, persistence, and hard work. In the beginning, Paul and his colleagues would wake up early, have breakfast, and go straight down the hole to begin mining. After more than a solid week of digging, the team unearthed their first opal stone!
While it may not have been a fine-quality elusive black opal, that half carat stone was a beacon of success, offering Paul hope of what could come, which is why he still has that first opal as a keepsake.
One month later, they unearthed a large crystal opal. Overcome with excitement, they had anticipated getting $1,000 for the stone, but unfortunately, the specimen contained sand throughout, and it only sold for $100. Paul knew there would be a fair share of upsets and a huge learning curve, but he persisted. He knew that opal mining is extremely hard work and being in the hole every day gave him a healthy respect for the work miners do, and an understanding of how hard it is to find opals.
After nine hard months of mining in harsh conditions, Paul pivoted his efforts and started dealing in rough opal.
Meanwhile, Paul’s twin brother, Wayne, lived in Perth, Western Australia. In 1989, Wayne was recovering from an ankle injury, so Paul sent him some opals from his mine and a cutting machine.
“How do I cut opals?” Wayne asked. Paul’s reply? “Just use your common sense!”
Well, Wayne didn’t think he had any common sense to do the task, but nevertheless, he quickly found himself thoroughly enjoying cutting rough opals. Maybe it was natural intuition or persistence to learn the craft, but he learned as he went and found the process rewarding.
With the brothers both engrossed in the rough opal enterprise, in 1992, Wayne moved 4,000 kilometres to the Gold Coast, Queensland, with his wife, Estela, and their two boys, Jason and Mark in tow. New roots planted, they set up a cutting room at The Mark Building on Orchid Avenue in Surfers Paradise to begin building their company.
In no time, the rough opal cutting enterprise was up and running. Paul would supply the rough opal to Wayne and Estela, who would get to work cutting 120 opals every day. Working in a rhythm, Wayne would rub down the rough opals and pass them over to Estela, who would shape and polish the opals on the dob sticks.
In the 90s, Surfers Paradise was full of Japanese tourist shops, so Paul would supply opals to the jewellery manufacturers in town.
After Estela had cut 1,000 opals, she went and sold the opals to the shops since she had accumulated a breadth of knowledge accompanied by cutting experience to appreciate the rare opal colors.
One day, Chris showed them a red on black opal that he was proud of, and Wayne said “it’s orange not red.” Chris’ own face flared red and wild, and since then, there has been an ongoing joke about how red (or orange!) an opal is.
Quickly, the family became opal wholesalers across Australia and New Zealand. The twin brothers accrued hundreds of wholesale accounts and they each began travelling and selling monthly. This is what first led Paul to the Tucson Gem Show in 2008, which we’ll elaborate on later.
The brothers discovered that some clients would buy more from one twin than another, so both would carry all their stock to accommodate each client’s needs. At the end of the month, they would balance who owed each other and settle up. Back then, the paperwork was complicated or at best ‘sloppy’, so it was difficult to get accurate sales. The twins played the guessing game many times, as thankfully, money wasn’t the issue, so it didn’t matter if one got paid as it would eventually all balance out.
Paul had established opal mining partnerships, so sometimes the split was 60-40, but the twins both thought they had the higher number of sales, and this became another ongoing family joke. But the family’s profitable opal business wasn’t solely motivated by money, but by the lifestyle and enjoyment that aligned closely with their family values. The brothers relied on a strong system of trust and transparency, and this became a vital component of their relationship and the family business. Because of this trust, business was easy and rewarding.
As the family expanded the operation, they employed Patrik in 2006 to help service the client base. Today, Patrik has his own site “Rolling Stone Opals” on Opal Auctions.
The business continued to expand and thrive, and along with hiring Patrik, opened an opal cutting factory in HCM, Vietnam, with a staff of workers cutting and polishing opals, while making silver and gold opal jewellery.
Business was great, and the family was selling silver opal jewellery to hundreds of shops across Australia. But unfortunately, the family’s success was cut short after five years, when Chinese sellers undercut their prices by half, and they couldn’t compete with these slashed prices.
Heading to Vietnam to close the factory, Wayne took samples of the Chinese silver jewellery they couldn’t compete against and showed it to the workers. To everyone’s shock, a Vietnamese jeweller cut the silver pendant in half, and exposed that the metal was actually a pewter in rhodium plating – not genuine silver! Can you believe it? Neither could Wayne! But of course, it all made sense in that moment that the Chinese sellers could only halve our prices because the jewellery wasn’t genuine silver.
What did we do next?
Wayne attended the Las Vegas Gem Show in the US to sell opals but did not sell any because he quickly became distracted by talk of the internet and online business. A wonderful venture blossomed from this experience. At the show, there were seminars from eBay sharing information about the internet and the lucrative potential of e-commerce.
The events were so exciting that Wayne forgot to sell any opals, and instead spent his trip going from seminar to seminar and chatting with people full time to learn as much as he could.
One day, he went for coffee and all of the tables were full, so he sat next to a guy who was going around asking for close out stocks to purchase. Wayne had many chats and found out that this guy was buying stock for Bidz, an online jewellery company. The man suggested that Wayne and the family business should open an online opal site because selling online was the future.
At the seminars, Wayne also met a retired NASA scientist who shared with him many entertaining stories about how he used mathematical equations for everything. His position also included how much oxygen an astronaut requires when in space. He told stories about how they would monitor Russian spaceships and listen to the astronauts when they ran out of air and died. What did this have to do with selling opals online?
When Wayne visited the man’s home, his bathroom walls were full of mathematical equations, and he said that eBay’s formula wasn’t sustainable as the sheer volume of sellers could not make enough income.
Initially, Wayne wasn’t sure what he meant by eBay’s formula being unsustainable, because in those days, many businesspeople said eBay was for slaves only, and that only eBay will make money online, not the sellers. Looking at eBay today, you have to wonder if these businesspeople were correct?
These two men influenced Wayne to start Opal Auctions, and what he learned was that to compete, the business had to have a better system than eBay. How would we take a completely fresh approach that succeeded against the e-commerce giant that was eBay?
At Opal Auctions, we decided from the beginning that our Sellers must be verified with product knowledge, and that only approved professional laboratories would handle certificates.
We started the Opal Sheriff and Verified program in 2005 to include authentic descriptions of every stone sold through our platform. eBay, on the other hand, didn’t roll out this type of system until October 2020, a whopping 15 years after we started ours!
In a winner takes all business environment, Wayne realized that our auction website needed to be more than just user-friendly to succeed; it needed trusted systems that prioritized time and information for buyers.
In 2003, he joined eBay and started selling but was hopeless at anything online, so his two teenage sons, Jason and Mark, helped set up eBay, email, and payment systems. Wayne realized that he’d have to venture away from eBay to make a profitable business. But how?
Remember that in 2003, the cost of a computer was $4,000, and a monthly internet plan (that was extremely slow in those days) was $500 per month. The computer was in Wayne’s son, Mark’s bedroom, and they had an uphill battle to work through all the bugs and tech issues. But like all business ventures, we all learnt a lot, and in 2004, we purchased a Spanish system for our online auctions and officially launched Opal Auctions in 2005.
As you can imagine, our start-up was anything but smooth and we had so many technical problems. For example, we built a video system in 2008 that cost us $15,000 just to make super basic videos filmed on a $3,000 camera. Fast forward to today and you can film superior video content on your mobile phones. But at the time, we had to work with the technology available, not knowing then that it would drastically improve over the coming years.
For the first five years, we lost a lot of money just trying to build the new online sites. But we all persisted because we believed in the potential of the online business when done right – for the users with transparent information and trusted buyer programs.
Once we got up and running and worked out all the kinks, we started to put the site out for sellers to join the platform. Our brother Paul and his partner Sally Patel were the first to join our online auction platform.
From there we continued to expand the family business. Both of Paul’s sons, Peter and Ross, are sellers and Sally Patel’s family of seven became individual sellers based in Australia and Tucson, Arizona, USA. We have always built our business around family values and that is what has remained constant through all of the shifts and turns in the evolution of Opal Auctions. The passion for opals is rooted not only in the family business, but our family history as well.
Ross cut his first Opal at 8 years old, and his son Hamish just carried on the family legacy by cutting his first opal at 8 years old, too.
What can we say, opals are in our blood! So, how did we get everyone else to jump onboard with Opal Auctions? We knew we needed to raise awareness about our company, so Wayne packed up once again for a trip, this time heading to the United States to attend the Tucson Gem Show in Arizona.
Wayne travelled with Patrik from Rollingstone Opals to launch Opal Auctions at the world-famous Tucson Gem Show in the US.
Upon arrival, things got off to a bleak start. They knew they had something special, but convincing others proved to be a difficult task. They were placed in a dead-end location at Days Inn, with little foot traffic. It was depressing, and the first client in a business suit told them that the internet was designed for war, and that Opal Auctions would never work.
The second client owned four shops in California and said that people would not buy opals online.
Finally, their third client saw some potential, and said they had a brilliant idea, amazing stock, and wished them the best of luck. They were happy to have some positive feedback… until they noticed that right after he left, their best rough black opal was missing! He had sweet talked them and stolen it right from under their noses.
What a disappointment! Making matters worse, they hadn’t filled out their forms for electricity for the show, so the bill was $1500 instead of $500.
Obviously, this was their last Gem Show in Tucson! Paul participated in Tucson shows for 20 years, but now, with online selling going so well, he’s stopped selling at Trade Shows.
The business started to pick up some momentum with the online auction site, but in those early days of e-commerce, technical difficulties were never far behind.
In 2007, the site crashed, and we lost most our buyers, as our Australian server could not handle requests. Around the same time, Steve joined us and taught himself computer coding. Today, he is our head coder and manages our massive server that can handle thousands of requests per minute, and he is forever building more improvements to our site.
By 2008, our system had greatly improved and was expanded to include more unique features. We had come a long way from our first system in 2004. In fact, we began a system called “Know Your Customer” before it was fashionable and status-quo for online business. With this program, all sellers had to be verified first, and our Opal Sheriff program and Item Watch program proved successful. Needless to say, Wayne was very fortunate and grateful to have met those two guys in Las Vegas who encouraged him to be more creative and push the envelope on his ideas.
In 2012, Paul’s sons officially joined our team.
Before joining the team, Ross was an engineer at Holden in Melbourne, Australia, and undertook a Gemmology course. He is now one of our gemmologists, as well as working with his wife Terese, who holds a double degree of IT and Accounting with years of experience with small business and the corporate sector. Together, they are an ideal team that handles the SEO, marketing, and improvement division. They have overseen many user-friendly aspects added to our platform.
Peter has been opal mining in Lightning Ridge for over 15 years. He is an accomplished and skilled opal cutter and is now our head cutter at Opal Auctions headquarter office where we cut around 4,000 opals per month. Peter took over his grandpa’s Opal Auctions selling site called “Anembo Opals.”
We have been through many ups and downs since those early days when Paul started opal mining at the Four Miles opal fields, but nothing could have prepared us for what was to come in 2020.
The Coronavirus pandemic had a massive effect on our buyers and sellers worldwide. There are so many traditional buyers who did Trade Shows that stopped buying. However, these were replaced by people buying and starting their own online business selling on social sites.
You can never predict the impact a worldwide health crisis will have on the global economy, and we weren’t sure what to expect for our family business. Fortunately, due to the heightened activity in online selling, our sales leapt up around a 70% per month average from previous years.
In April 2021, Paul made the largest donation to date to the Australian Opal Centre at Lightning Ridge -- the largest and most diverse donation of rare opalised fossils and opal-related curiosities ever gifted to a public institution.
In June 2021, Opal Auctions won the Family Business award in Gold Coast, Australia where the head office is based.
Looking back at our family’s journey in the opal industry and e-commerce opal market, we have covered a lot of ground, physically and digitally! We have always believed that when a family comes together utilizing everyone’s talents, skills, gifts, and determination, while always putting family first, a business will be unstoppable.
It hasn’t always been easy, but we’ve stuck together through the ups and downs. Opals run through our veins and colour our lives, and we don’t plan on stopping any time soon!
Paul compiled online opal gallery of his most prized opals collected over the years, which you can view at the link below.
1986 年 – Paul Sedawie 在四英里蛋白石礦場開始了蛋白石採礦企業
1992 年 – 拓展蛋白石批發業務
2003 年 - 追求電子商務並為蛋白石拍賣播下種子
2006 年 - 圖森寶石展：災難轉為成功
2008 – 引入更多家庭
有時，我們出發的路線不可避免地要繞道而行。如果你很幸運，那條彎路會通往寶藏。這正是居住在澳大利亞墨爾本的 Paul Sedawie 身上發生的事情，他非常渴望在金礦開採中碰碰運氣。雖然保羅沒有淘到金子，但一系列事件讓他找到了比他想像的更美麗的東西：蛋白石。不僅僅是蛋白石，而是將建立家族遺產並成為寶石行業主導企業的蛋白石。
幸運的是，他遇到了他的學校好友 Bob Young，後者讓他住在他的營地，並說服他放棄對黃金的追求，轉而在著名的四英里蛋白石礦場開採蛋白石。然而，好運並沒有因為他們的小型千斤頂操作而持續多久，直到他遇到了另一位蛋白石礦工克里斯，他們聯手創建了一個蛋白石開採業務。
目前，Chris 是 Opal Auctions 的賣家，名為“Opal Rush”。在 Opal Auctions 於 2000 年代初期在線推出之前的幾年，Paul 和 Chris 在蛋白石領域尋找世界知名的澳大利亞蛋白石。
一個月後，他們出土了一顆大水晶蛋白石。興奮地克服了，他們原以為這塊石頭能賣 1,000 美元，但不幸的是，標本里到處都是沙子，只賣了 100 美元。保羅知道會有相當多的不安和巨大的學習曲線，但他堅持了下來。他知道蛋白石開採是一項極其艱苦的工作，每天在礦洞里工作讓他對礦工的工作充滿敬意，並了解找到蛋白石是多麼困難。
與此同時，保羅的孿生兄弟韋恩住在西澳大利亞的珀斯。 1989 年，韋恩從腳踝受傷中恢復過來，所以保羅從他的礦場和一台切割機寄給他一些蛋白石。
1992 年，兄弟倆全神貫注於粗蛋白石企業，韋恩帶著妻子埃斯特拉和他們的兩個兒子傑森和馬克搬到了 4,000 公里的昆士蘭黃金海岸。有了新的根，他們在衝浪者天堂蘭花大道的馬克大廈設立了一個剪裁室，開始建立他們的公司。
很快，蛋白石原石切割企業就開始運營了。保羅會將蛋白石原石供應給韋恩和埃斯特拉，他們每天要切割 120 顆蛋白石。韋恩有節奏地工作，將粗糙的蛋白石磨碎，並將它們傳遞給埃斯特拉，埃斯特拉將在多布棒上塑造和拋光蛋白石。
Estela 切割了 1,000 顆蛋白石後，她將蛋白石賣給了商店，因為她積累了廣泛的知識和切割經驗，可以欣賞稀有的蛋白石顏色。
一天，克里斯向他們展示了他引以為豪的黑色蛋白石上的紅色，韋恩說“這是橙色不是紅色。” Chris 自己的臉紅得發紅，變得狂野，從那時起，一直有一個關於蛋白石有多紅（或橙色！）的笑話。
很快，這個家族就成為了澳大利亞和新西蘭的蛋白石批發商。這對孿生兄弟積累了數百個批發賬戶，他們每個人都開始每月旅行和銷售。這就是保羅在 2008 年首次參加圖森寶石展的原因，我們將在後面詳細說明。
隨著家族擴大業務，他們於 2006 年聘請帕特里克 (Patrik) 幫助為客戶群提供服務。今天，Patrik 在 Opal Auctions 擁有自己的網站“Rolling Stone Opals”。
業務不斷擴大和蓬勃發展，並在聘請 Patrik 的同時，在越南胡志明市開設了一家蛋白石切割工廠，員工負責切割和拋光蛋白石，同時製造銀和金蛋白石首飾。
一天，他去喝咖啡，所有桌子都滿了，所以他坐在一個四處走動要求購買股票的人旁邊。韋恩聊了很多次，發現這傢伙正在為在線珠寶公司 Bidz 購買股票。該男子建議韋恩和家族企業開設一個在線蛋白石網站，因為在線銷售是未來。
在研討會上，韋恩還遇到了一位退休的 NASA 科學家，他與他分享了許多關於他如何將數學方程式用於一切事物的有趣故事。他的職位還包括宇航員在太空中需要多少氧氣。他講述了他們如何監視俄羅斯宇宙飛船並在宇航員耗盡空氣並死亡時傾聽他們的故事。這與在線銷售蛋白石有什麼關係？
當韋恩拜訪該男子的家時，他的浴室牆上滿是數學方程式，他說 eBay 的公式不可持續，因為賣家數量龐大，無法賺取足夠的收入。
最初，韋恩不確定他所說的 eBay 不可持續的公式是什麼意思，因為在那個年代，許多商人說 eBay 只為奴隸服務，只有 eBay 會在網上賺錢，而不是賣家。看看今天的eBay，你不禁懷疑這些商人說的對不對？
這兩個人影響韋恩創辦了 Opal Auctions，他學到的是，為了競爭，該企業必須擁有比 eBay 更好的系統。我們將如何採取一種全新的方法來對抗電子商務巨頭 eBay？
在 Opal Auctions，我們從一開始就決定我們的賣家必須經過產品知識驗證，並且只有經過批准的專業實驗室才能處理證書。
我們於 2005 年啟動了 Opal Sheriff and Verified 計劃，包括對通過我們平台銷售的每塊石頭的真實描述。另一方面，eBay 直到 2020 年 10 月才推出這種類型的系統，這比我們開始使用了 15 年之久！
2003 年，他加入 eBay 並開始銷售，但對網上的任何東西都無望，所以他的兩個十幾歲的兒子 Jason 和 Mark 幫助建立了 eBay、電子郵件和支付系統。韋恩意識到他必須冒險離開 eBay 才能開展有利可圖的業務。但是如何？
請記住，在 2003 年，一台計算機的成本是 4,000 美元，而每月的互聯網計劃（當時非常慢）是每月 500 美元。電腦在韋恩的兒子馬克的臥室裡，他們進行了一場艱苦的戰鬥來解決所有的錯誤和技術問題。但和所有商業企業一樣，我們都學到了很多東西，2004 年，我們為在線拍賣購買了西班牙系統，並於 2005 年正式啟動了 Opal Auctions。
可以想像，我們的啟動並不順利，而且我們遇到了很多技術問題。例如， 我們在 2008 年建造了一個視頻系統，僅僅為了製作用 3000 美元的相機拍攝的超級基本視頻就花費了 15000 美元。快進到今天，您可以在手機上拍攝出色的視頻內容。但當時，我們不得不使用可用的技術，當時並不知道它會在未來幾年內大幅改進。
一旦我們啟動並運行並解決了所有問題，我們就開始將該網站發布給賣家加入該平台。我們的兄弟 Paul 和他的合夥人 Sally Patel 是第一個加入我們的在線拍賣平台的人。
從那時起，我們繼續擴大家族企業。 Paul 的兩個兒子 Peter 和 Ross 都是賣家，而 Sally Patel 的七口之家成為了位於澳大利亞和美國亞利桑那州圖森的個人賣家。我們始終圍繞家族價值觀開展業務，這也是 Opal Auctions 發展過程中的所有轉變和轉變始終保持不變的原因。對蛋白石的熱情不僅植根於家族企業，也植根於我們的家族歷史。
羅斯在 8 歲時切磨了他的第一塊蛋白石，他的兒子哈米甚也在 8 歲時切磨了他的第一塊蛋白石，從而繼承了家族遺產。
我們能說什麼，蛋白石在我們的血液中！那麼，我們是如何讓其他人加入 Opal Auctions 的呢？我們知道我們需要提高對我們公司的認識，所以韋恩再次打包旅行，這次前往美國參加在亞利桑那州舉行的圖森寶石展。
Wayne 與來自 Rollingstone Opals 的 Patrik 一起前往世界著名的美國圖森寶石展上推出 Opal Auctions。
抵達後，事情開始慘淡。他們知道自己有一些特別之處，但事實證明說服他人是一項艱鉅的任務。他們被安置在 Days Inn 的一個死胡同，幾乎沒有人流。令人沮喪的是，第一個西裝革履的客戶告訴他們，互聯網是為戰爭而設計的，Opal Auctions 永遠行不通。
多麼令人失望！更糟糕的是，他們沒有填寫演出的電費表格，所以賬單是 1500 美元而不是 500 美元。
顯然，這是他們在圖森的最後一次寶石展！保羅參加了圖森展覽 20 年，但現在，隨著在線銷售進展順利，他停止在貿易展上銷售。
到 2008 年，我們的系統有了很大的改進，並擴展到包括更多獨特的功能。從 2004 年的第一個系統開始，我們已經走了很長一段路。事實上，我們在一個名為“了解你的客戶”的系統之前就開始了在線業務的流行和現狀。有了這個計劃，所有賣家都必須首先經過驗證，我們的 Opal Sheriff 計劃和 Item Watch 計劃證明是成功的。毋庸置疑，Wayne 非常幸運也很感激在拉斯維加斯遇到了這兩個人，他們鼓勵他更有創意並勇於挑戰自己的想法。
在加入團隊之前，Ross 在澳大利亞墨爾本的 Holden 擔任工程師，並參加了寶石學課程。他現在是我們的寶石學家之一，並與他的妻子 Terese 一起工作，後者在 IT 和數據輸入方面擁有豐富的經驗。他們一起是處理 SEO、營銷和改進部門的理想團隊。他們監督了添加到我們平台的許多用戶友好方面。
Peter 在 Lightning Ridge 開採蛋白石已超過 15 年。他是一位技藝精湛且技藝精湛的蛋白石切割師，現在是 Opal Auctions 總部辦公室的首席切割師，我們每月切割約 4,000 顆蛋白石。彼得接管了他祖父的蛋白石拍賣網站，名為“Anembo Opals”。
自從保羅在四英里蛋白石礦場開始開採蛋白石的早期以來，我們經歷了許多起起落落，但沒有什麼能讓我們為 2020 年即將到來的事情做好準備。
2021 年 4 月，保羅向位於閃電嶺的澳大利亞蛋白石中心進行了迄今為止最大的一筆捐贈——這是有史以來向公共機構捐贈的最大、最多樣化的稀有蛋白石化石和與蛋白石相關的珍品捐贈。
2021 年 6 月，Opal Auctions 贏得了總部所在地澳大利亞黃金海岸的家族企業獎。