|Carved spectrolite moon faces in 18k and 22k gold with diamonds|
I know it always sounds great to someone who doesn't have their own business to be self employed but, unfortunately it's not nearly as romantic or relaxing as it sometimes seems. So even on my short four day break over July 4th I found myself doing business. Not that it wasn't fun business, but it was still business. My opal and pearl dealer was in town and when he is, he routinely stays with us. I wasn't looking for much material but I always look at everything he has.
What is becoming more and more apparent is that opal prices have skyrocketed in the last five years. While the normal, commercial white opal hasn't seen this explosion in prices, the more unusual material like the boulder opal I use and black opal has just gone through some enormous changes. This has happened across the board in these materials. Low end material that I used to sell for $100 I would now have to sell for $3-400. The problem with this is that it doesn't look any better than it did when I was selling it for $100. The higher end material has also seen huge rises in cost. Some of this rise is simply due to the burgeoning Asian market. There is a vast amount of new wealth in Asia today and the Asian market has always appreciated fine gemstones. Additionally there is a limited supply of fine material that can be mined and, unlike a diamond which is forever, a lot of opal material breaks down over time (usually a long period of time) so it isn't like a huge amount of old material will ever come back into the marketplace.
So what's an opal lover (like myself) to do? Well first of all I don't see prices going down ever. Barring an extended world wide depression there is simply no reason for the prices to go down from where they are. Mining costs in Australia will only continue to rise. The market for fine material will continue to grow. There will be less and less material being mined as sources are depleted. So, personally I would buy it now before it gets even more costly.
While we were going through my opal man's collection of better material (ranging in price from about $1500-$15,000) he was watching me as I would stop at certain pieces that attracted my attention more than others. When I finished he looked at me and told me that every piece I had stopped at was from his personal collection that he has begun to sell off slowly. Leave it to me to appreciate only the best and most interesting ones. Two of those pieces I bought because they were so unusual and wild looking (and affordable). One should be out in a pendant within a week or so and I'll post a picture of it (although I'm not sure if we're going to be able to get the colors showing up properly). The other one may go into my own personal collection.
Please stop by if you'd like to see these two beauties!
The earrings above were a custom job for a customer late last year and were some of my few remaining carved spectrolite faces.