This newly discovered Opal found in the Welo Amhara Regional State Highland plateau 2.500 – 3.200 meters above sea level of Ethiopia is a new find that is quickly gaining the attention of the opal community. This opal was the hit of the recent Tucson international gem show.
Welo opal requires a mountain of patience and some special cutting techniques but the finished result is every bit as stable as the better known Australian opals. The color is brilliant and rivals any top grade opal in the world. Most have a brightness level of at least 4 to 5 on the brightness scale with hot neon multi-color and multiple pattern mix. Welo opal is not generally classified as contra luz opal although I have seen a few. The color play is face up and in a lot of cases, as bright in artificial indoor light as it is in direct sunlight. This opal just loves any light source.
This is hydrophane opal which when soaked in water allows the base color to clear up...sometimes highlighting the play-of-color, sometimes making it vanish. The best trait of the Welo hydrophane opal is that when it's dry and polished it can be one of the brightest opals in the world. From my experience, the Welo opal is as stable as the best of all that I have cut in the last 10 years. It can take twice as long to cut a finished stone, but the visual rewards are well worth the time. Different types of opals require specialty care for the beauty you enjoy... Welo opal is no different. No chemicals or detergents...If soaked in water, it will take one to two weeks to completely dry out and return to its original beautiful state. Do not try and accelerate the drying by any artificial means. Do not use ultrasonic cleaning for any opals.
Gondar and Wollo (Welo) are not regarded as desert at all – it is on the Abyssinian highland plateau of Amhara Proper, Amhara Regional State.
The Welo opal is found in the same type of geological formations as the Australian opal. Welo opal is the most stable opal find in Ethiopia to date. Ethiopian Opals are region specific in character traits just like Australian opals. I have seen the price of this opal rise dramatically over the last few months and it looks as though the price is going to go higher.
The Ethiopian Government does not own any mines. All land is owned by the government: In Amhara it is administrated by the Regional State who does not allow mining by others than registered and licensed farmer co-operatives. This process is being done now.