Opals at the Munich Show
Opals at the Munich Show
In Europe, Germany is traditionally viewed as a strong market for Opals, no wonder then, that the Munich Show had a great variety of them. Most of the stands were located in the Mineralworld, usually divided by the locality, with vendors specialising in Australian, Mexican or Welo stones.
Due to their specific look, Mexican Opals are usually more of a competition to the other coloured gemstones than Opals from Australia or Ethiopia. Most of Mexican stones does not have a play of colour, drawing their strength from an attractive body colour, which can vary from deep red to yellow but usually it is a nice shade of orange. The best stones are transparent and normally faceted, while translucent material is cabbed and considered a lower grade unless it exhibits a play of colour. Out of the three, Mexican Fire Opals constituted probably the smallest percentage, with only a couple of stands offering them, mostly as loose stones, followed closely by finished pieces of jewellery. The rough material for cutting was basically non-existent. We suspect the situation may be a bit different at the upcoming Tucson Show, as it is much closer to their locality.
Australian Opals were present in strength, mostly as loose cut stones, but there was a great number of finished jewels on sale too. The prices of good Black Opal were high despite the recession as the Lightning Ridge production is slow, plagued by high fuel prices and in need of a new good fields. Any gap, created this way in the market, seems to be filled with Queensland Boulder Opals. They usually come as a mosaic of precious Opal and Ironstone or Sandstone, this is interesting and attractive, but no match for best stones from Lightning Ridge. However, Boulder Opal in finest examples present with full Opal face and Ironstone at the back, being then virtually identical to Black Opal, with prices in the same region. There wasn’t much of a white Australian Opal to be seen, it may be a coincidence or an emergence of Welo material on the market. Good Australian Rough was scarce like a water in the desert and equally expensive. It was quickly sold on Friday morning and the general public could only pick from some mediocre stuff on Saturday and Sunday.
Welo Opals were present on a good number of stands, many of them selling rough only, some together with an already cut stones. You could also spot them alongside many Australian stones, usually on local merchants stands. Great majority of cut stones were sold loose and only a handful of complete jewellery pieces could be seen. Rough material varied greatly in size, price and quality, so knowledge of rough Opal assessment and some haggling skills were necessary for a successful shopping, especially that there were a couple of instances where we’ve seen obviously smoke treated Welo sold as natural black… Smallest size material was sold at more or less same prices as in previous years, but larger, good quality stones were approximately 4 times more expensive than two years ago as a result of popular demand and some mining restrictions. As long as the price increase benefits Ethiopian miners this is fine with me, but I’m somehow sceptical about that… Noteworthy is also Ethiopian Shewa and Welo Opals presence at “The African Secrets” exhibition among other beautiful gems of that continent.
Summarising I must say that Opals were single most represented kind of stone on the Munich Show, having the largest number of dedicated stands and being on offer in many of general coloured gemstones selling ones. That fully confirms this gem’s long standing popularity on the German market, a trend which we would like to promote in other countries, where consumers often wrongly identify opal as uninteresting white stone without much colour. This happens, in a large part, due to big jewellery corporations that like to mass produce jewels and thus prefer identically looking, cheap, calibrated size stones and this type, although present , is not in our opinion the true Opal.
Robert Zdeb 2012
Homepage of The Munich Show https://munichshow.com/en/