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This article is written as a general guide for pricing opals from www.opalmine.com
Opal Stone Price around the world can vary from just a few dollars to many thousands of dollars. In this article, we will first give you an idea of how the price structure of opal works.
Keep in mind that this summary is not meant to be a specifically accurate valuation but only a broad understanding of how the three major types of opal are viewed by miners, cutters, and dealers and jewelry shops in regards to prices
Unlike many other valuable items, opals stone prices around the world are not established by agreement between cartel members but rather, what is being actually achieved by dealers and merchants. A little bit like an auction system without an auction.
A cartel is a group of individuals or companies who come together to agree on a consistent price for a commodity.
This means that no matter where you are, prices are pretty well consistent unless items find there way into alternate or black markets.
Opal stone price around the world is based on supply and demand.
When the supply is short, the price goes up. If a new field is found, the price can go down.
Having said that, there is an understanding among dealers about the value of certain stones and there is a committee at Lightning Ridge who endeavors to set a price.
This has only been moderately successful because merchants and miners deal directly with one another and form an understanding of prices.
The opal industry, unlike other gemstone industries, consists mainly of small-time miners who usually keep quite confidential about there activities and often opal prices can be decided more on the financial needs of the miner rather than values.
Having said that, people who are involved deeply in the industry have a good definition of what stones are worth and these opal stone prices around the world need to be interpreted in the currency of the country they are sold. We will discuss more about that later.
The prices below are first stated in Australian dollars and will be translated into 14 different currencies in the chart at the bottom of this page, covering the major locations sponsored in www.opalmine.com
As already mentioned, we emphasize that the prices are only approximations but will give you a general idea about what the price will be for the three major groups of opal in qualities ranging from the lowest to the highest.
These graduations are expressed numerically, the lowest being 1, then 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. You will notice that we have added 7, 8,9 to Lightning Ridge Black Opal because there are certain very rare black opals that go far above the price of all other opals. These details are discussed later.
First let us discuss the different types of solid opal (that is White and Crystal Opal mainly from Coober Pedy and Andamooka South Australia fields, then Boulder Opal from the Western Queensland, Australia fields, and finally Black Opal from Lightning Ridge in western New South Wales, Australia) and the approximate prices you would expect to pay for different qualities, sizes, and weights.
You will notice that we have focused attention on the Australian opal fields. There are of course opals in other parts of the world but many of them have proved unreliable and too porous to use in jewelry.
We will start at the least expensive of these stones, which up until recently at least are more plentiful than others and they are:
Actually, white opal(sometimes called ‘milk’ opal) is the most recognized internationally because they have been mined for centuries in Slovakia where there were opals similar to Andamooka Painted lady and Coober Pedy white and crystal opals.
White opal price starts with an opaque ‘surface’ colored stone, the lowest quality having flickers of color against a pale or light grey background.
Values of this stone along with its more expensive cousin, crystal opal are established by weight, measured in carats.
A carat is a measurement originating with the use of carob seeds in ancient times because these seeds were quite similar in weight.
Eventually, carats graduated into a recorded system of weighing gemstones. Opals are not such a heavy stone and a medium height cabochon (top of stone), size 8x6 mm (5/16” x ¼”) would weigh just under a carat. A 9x7 mm (3/8” x ¼”) stone would be about one carat.
1. A carat of this quality would cost around $10 retail.
The value then grows as the color gets brighter and the pattern broader and more interesting.
The next step up would be a pale more opaque stone with brighter more distinctive colors. The price could double to around $20 per carat.
In this category, another variety would be a stone more translucent (jelly-like) but with colors that are quite subdued.
2. The stone then graduates into something not so opaque. More “see through” or translucent with obvious colors and patterns that attract more attention. We are now developing into a different category of white opal and that is what is termed “crystal” opal, named for its crystalline appearance, not being an actual crystal, because opal is hydrated silica, not crystal. Stones such as these could sell for around $50 per carat
3. The color then intensifies and combines with other colors giving it more interest. Price increases to around $80 per carat
4.As Crystal opal gets more brilliant with colors that really stand out. Some crystals from Lightning Ridge which have a darker appearance, the price will easily double and select stones can sell in the vicinity of $300 to $500 per
5.Still more color and brilliance. You can see into the stone but it is quite dense and striking. Price develops into $100 to $150 per carat
The image above is a medium grade crystal opal which is in the category of white or pale opal. This particular stone would sell for around $100 per carat in a jewelry shop
This category identifies two major types of opal. Black Opal and Boulder Opal. Both these stones owe their description to the fact that the opal color is found against a background of either dark brown ironstone or unformed black opal called “potch”
We will consider Boulder opals first since they are next in line of value as the stone gets more expensive. Boulder opals can either be valued in carats or in size, depending on the amount of ironstone left in the background of the stone.
If the stone is too thick and hence overweight, it would not be ethical to put a per carat price on it, so dealers usually value these stones according to length and width rather than weight and an estimate is made of what the stone should really weigh if it was of acceptable size.
1. For the purpose of making it easier to understand, we will assume that the boulder opal is an acceptable thickness and hence is weighed in carats. Boulder opals with dark blue features where the color is not so bright can be valued at around $50 per carat,
These stones are the ones that all other opals are measured against price-wise. Offering exact valuations is extremely difficult because of the wide variety of variations in the background tone of the stone.
Attempts have been made to make up charts showing the variations and while this can work to a degree offline, it is very difficult to be accurate online when each computer screen is slightly different.
By way of offering a simple explanation, we will just comment on two or three grades to illustrate the point
We will start with a dark opal (dark, not black indicates that the background of the stone is not pitch black but is a variation of grey)
As you can see by these explanations, opal is in the category of the most precious gemstones in the world and this reputation is achieved not by cartel agreed pricing structure like many commodities, but by supply balanced with demand
As a point in question, at this juncture, after over 40 years in the opal industry, if you asked me to find you a harlequin opal, I would not know where to go to find one.
In actual fact, a customer asked me to find such a stone that she was willing to pay $80,000 for. I could not find one so I had to decline the request.
www.opalmine.com serves customers from many nations of the world. Our website, at the click of a button, can be read in 14 languages.
For the benefit of international customers, the prices noted above are expressed in the chart below in these currencies, starting with Australian dollar prices.
You will notice that boulder opal, a stone from the Queensland fields which is another form of Black opal, is similar in price to Black Opal from Lightning Ridge New South Wales in the low end, but high-quality Lightning Ridge stones escalate as the quality reaches its peak.
At this point its difficult to tell what the price will be. If a customer has the money and the miner is not under pressure to sell, the price can become over the top. However, by browsing the various prices on this site, you will be able to compare notes.
Please note that quite often the prices shown at the opalmine site are much cheaper than what is listed on the chart below because you are buying direct online and overheads are kept to a minimum.
You will also note, particularly with boulder opal that there are other subcategories of this stone that we have not shown on the chart because the variations are so complex that it would just confuse you. Boulder opal is often presented with a mixture of the natural boulder ironstone with opal color mixed in.
These stones have their own personality and are usually much cheaper than the stones with full color featured on the chart. As stated in this article, if you come across an opal that you would like more details about, please feel free to leave your email in the live HELP facility at the bottom right-hand side of each page.
By browsing the pages of www.opalmine.com you will also come across opal doublets and triplets which are very popular because they achieve a similar effect as solid black opal without the high price tag. Many of these stones are already set in pendants, rings, earrings, bracelets etc. saving you the need to have the stones set by a jeweler, and giving you the convenience of seeing just what the design is like without having to have a design and manufacture done.
This site has hundreds of examples of opal prices around the world and if you need to ask any questions about price structures in your own country, please take advantage of the help button at the bottom right-hand side of each page. Leave your email there and Peter will be pleased to answer any questions without the obligation to buy anything. This site is designed to help and educate folks about opals around the world whether you deal with us or not.
Please note that if you do decide to make a purchase, each item comes with an international guarantee and we ship to wherever you live on earth.
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