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Earth Treasures: Ethiopian Opals

By Chisom Ibemere

Ethiopian opals are unearthed in the volcanic rock called tuff, forming through the deposition of silica-rich gel in the rock’s cavities and cracks.

Originating in the Wollo Province of Ethiopia in 2008, the Ethiopian opal, also known as Welo opal or African opal, surprised the gemstone industry by introducing a new source of opals from a region not traditionally associated with opal production. This discovery has sparked renewed interest and enthusiasm within the opal market.

Volcanic activity in the area played a pivotal role in shaping these opals.

Highly valued for their captivating play-of-color, Ethiopian opals are predominantly used as gemstones in jewelry, including rings, earrings, and pendants. Their fiery display of colors has made them a popular choice among opal enthusiasts and jewelry designers.

Additionally, some people believe in the metaphysical properties of opals, using them for purposes such as enhancing creativity, confidence, and emotional stability.

Ethiopian opals exhibit a broad spectrum of colors, including red, orange, green, blue, and purple, against body colors ranging from white and yellow to black.

With a hardness of approximately 5.5-6.5 on the Mohs scale, they are relatively soft compared to other gemstones. Their translucency varies from opaque to transparent.

Since their discovery, Ethiopian opals have gained substantial recognition and popularity in the global gemstone market. Collectors and jewelry designers are drawn to their unique play-of-color and relatively large sizes.

The value of Ethiopian opals hinges on factors such as the intensity and quality of play-of-color, transparency, size, and overall gemstone quality.

Exceptional Ethiopian opals with high-quality play-of-color and clarity can command significant prices, though it’s essential to note that opal values can be subjective and influenced by individual preferences and market trends.


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