The opal landscape is seriously changing….
A few years ago, a good friend of mine who is one of the top opal triplet manufacturers in Australia, gave me a warning that soon, top crystal opal would be nearly impossible to obtain and even the lesser grades of good color will be out of reach for many. Indeed, this has come to pass. The following is a letter I received from another friend who is a long time opal cutter down under. His note explains what is happening in detail. For those of you who love opal, as you read what he has to say, I encourage you to consider purchasing what you can of this wonderful gem, be it rough or cut stones before the price and availability make it unobtainable.
The amount of opal being mined in Australia is at an all time low. Mintabie where I mined there were 70 bulldozers at it’s peak for over a decade. Now there are 2.
Coober Pedy is most likely less then 10% of production of past years and continues to fall. At both fields there has not been a major new field found for several years and there are very few miners prospecting. The one possibility at Coober Pedy was the reopening of the Shell Patch field but that has not reached expectations.
Hong Kong/China, the main buyers of rough opal can no longer buy enough rough to maintain their businesses and almost all have closed – One of my best friends (Hong Kong Chinese) ran perhaps the largest opal cutting factory in China and lived at Coober Pedy up to 10 months of the year. Now he simply cannot regularly buy enough opal rough to warrant staying there for any length of time and visits only a few weeks each year. The numbers of cutters in his factory is now only 8 and that will continue to drop as his stocks continue to drop.
Most opal cutters, particularly triplet cutters simply do not have stocks of top quality opal and most have left the industry.
Most triplet cutters have stopped cutting because they cannot get the rough. Gem grade triplets they could sell as soon as they cut them with just a phone call. This is fast what is happening with B + and definitely A grade.
The triplets I have were cut over a decade ago and I will not be cutting more. I am 70 in a few months and the top opal I have left I am doing solids and cutting them for enjoyment the way i feel like cutting them. I kept this rough for over 30 years just to look at and remember the mining days. When this is gone there will be no more left for me also.
Our retail business will most likely close this time next year and then everything I have will be sold through the website.
All the best,