April 2018 Newsletter: Fine Opal from Ethiopia

Beautiful Gems at a Great Price

One of the differences between the colored gemstone business and the diamond trade is that the supply of fine colored stones is limited. Diamonds are widely available in all standardized cuts, grades and sizes. Colored gems, especially in the finer grades and rarer varieties, are typically scarce and hard to find.

However, there are rare occasions when exceptional colored gems come on the market in reasonable quantities and at attractive prices. It happened with a big find of superb spessartite garnet from Nigeria in 1999, where clean material with a vivid orange color became available for the first time. It happened again in 2007 with the discovery of neon pink-red spinel in Mahenge, Tanzania, some of the finest spinel ever found. Smart dealers and collectors jumped at the opportunity to acquire these wonderful gems.

5.65 ct Ethiopian Opal 22.34 ct Ethiopian Black Opal 4.16 ct Ethiopian Opal

These special finds tend to be short-lived. But we are currently in the midst of an tremendous boom in fine opal that has lasted for nearly 10 years. In 2008 there was a discovery of a huge deposit of high quality opal in Welo province in northern Ethiopia. The best of this material was highly translucent with a vivid play of color, displaying a full range of colors against a white or blue or brown body color. Large patches of red and orange and green are common, and play of color is sometimes distributed along parallel colums that resemble fingers.

The Ethiopian opals are not only beautiful, but they are, according to a GIA study, "remarkably durable" and "resistant to crazing." The Ethiopian material is hydrophane opal with a high water content that makes them unlikely to dry out or crack. Indeed our experience has been that these opals do well even in very dry climates like the Arizona desert, and that the play of color is even more pronounced in low humidity environments.

The Ethiopian opals are really quite inexpensive, given the quality of the gems, and prices are probably as low as they will go. If you've ever considered adding a fine opal to your collection, there has never been a better time to acquire one of these beautiful gems at a great price.

See our collection of Fine Opals


Notable Gems from the AJS Collection

This month we feature new acquisitions, including a superb 5 ct Tsavorite Garnet, a new Blue Sapphire pendant and a huge Moonstone Cat's Eye. Click on a photo to see the details for the item.

5.07 ct Tsavorite Garnet from Tanzania
5.07 ct Tsavorite Garnet from Tanzania  [SOLD]
A stunning large Tsavorite Garnet over 5 carats! This rare gem has a bright and open color with outstanding brilliance. This is very fine crystal with excellent clarity, beautifully fashioned in an elegant oval with a large face. An exceptional stone for the rare gem collector. Guaranteed natural and untreated.

7.09 ct Aquamarine and Morganite Matched Pair from Brazil

7.09 ct Aquamarine and Morganite Matched Pair from Brazil  [SOLD]
An unusual and unique matched pair of very fine beryls -- an aquamarine and a morganite. These elegant pears are beautifully matched and completely clean, and will make a gorgeous set of drop earrings. Truly a one-of-a-kind set for the colored gemstone collector, guaranteed natural and untreated.
5.35 ct Blue Sapphire Pendant in 18k White Gold

A superb Royal Blue Sapphire over 5 carats set in an 18k white gold pendant with diamonds. The setting features 3 baguette diamonds on top with a total weight of 0.277 cts, and a halo of 29 round diamonds with a total weight of 0.275 cts. An 18k white gold chain is included, The Sapphire includes a certificate From GemResearch Swisslab (GRS) stating the color as vivid blue (GRS type "royal blue").

See the video

25.24 ct Moonstone Cat's Eye from Sri Lanka

45.24 ct Moonstone Cat's Eye from Sri Lanka  [SOLD]

A very rare Moonstone Cat's Eye from Sri Lanka in a very large size. This beautiful golden gem displays the mysterious shimmering adularescence so distinctive of Moonstone, with the additional phenomenon of a well-defined cat's eye under a focused light. Over 45 carats, this unusual gem has a high dome and a flat base, suitable for setting in an impressive ring or pendant. Guaranteed natural and untreated.

7.53 ct Blue Zircon from Cambodia

A very fine medium-blue zircon with excellent fire. Very clean and well-cut, this beautiful gem will sparkle in your jewelry design. Guaranteed natural.

See the video

6.29 ct Opal from Ethiopia

An outstanding gem Opal from the famous deposit in Welo province in northern Ethiopia. This fine Opal displays a vivid blue body color with superb play of color and excellent translucency. Simply an amazing stone at a modest price, These fine Opals are undoubtedly one of the best values in colored stones today. Guaranteed natural and untreated.

See the video

News from AJS and the Gems World

Historic Blue Diamond, Hidden for 300 Years, to be Offered at Auction

Farnese Blue Diamond

One of the most important historic diamonds in the world -- the Farmese Blue Diamond -- will be offered at auction for the first time, at Sotheby's Geneva sale in May. The pear-shaped, 6.16 carat, fancy dark grey-blue stone was originally given to Queen Elisabeth Farnese of Spain as a wedding gift following her marriage to King Philip V in 1714. The diamond has spent the last 300 years in the private collections of Europe’s royal families. Originating in the Golconda mines of India, it has traveled from Spain to France, Italy and Austria over the last three centuries. The diamond has an estimated price of $3.7 million to $5.3 million.



Ask the Gem Experts

Each month we answer questions from our customers. We welcome your questions and you can submit a question from our contact page.

I loved your newsletter on green gemstones. I was wondering, which is the rarer gem, emerald or tsavorite garnet? GC, New Zealand

Emerald has traditionally been the rarest and most valuable of the green gemstones. But its preeminence is challenged by an even rarer gem from Africa, the chrome green tsavorite garnet. While emerald continues to be a classic gem, many gem dealers would argue that fine tsavorite is in many ways superior to all but the very finest emeralds. Compared to emerald, tsavorite is a more brilliant and fiery gem. Where emerald tends to have a sleepy look, due to its lower refractive index and many inclusions, fine tsavorite is relatively clean and transparent with twice the dispersion of emerald. And tsavorite is completely untreated as well.

Why does aquamarine cost much more than blue topaz which is nearly the same color? I'm sure there must be some reason. Thanks, LP, Canada

Blue topaz is a more common material because the color is produced by treating colorless topaz with radiation and heat. Aquamarine is much rarer in nature, particularly in the finer colors. Aquamarine also has a long history as a gemstone and that adds to its collectability. Blue topaz is mainly used in commercial jewelry.



All the best in gems,

Arnold, Rung & Ron