What Is It Worth?
We are of the opinion that opal is one of the last few gemstones readily available to the general public in the rough, where the major profit goes to the cutter.
We are still seeing significant increases in the value of some grades of opal over short periods of time; therefore, rough opals are good investments. But, buy them right, shop around, compare FACTORS as listed Here. Do your homework and you will be rewarded.
The most exasperating question we get over the web and at shows is the “what is it worth” question. It takes a long time to answer and is boring to most of our customers. Then add to it the MILLIONS of combinations of characteristics and it quickly becomes overwhelming. Look at the attached reading and multiply the the combinations and you will see what we mean. It is common for us to receive an email asking the dreaded “what is it worth” question, with no picture and an unwillingness to send the specimen/finished stone to us. There is nothing that we can say, yet these folks think that we can give a value to a verbal description. It is simply impossible. In fact, we won’t even do it with pictures. Even pictures don’t tell the story. Why? Imagine trying to value a foriegn car, like the TaTa, without seeing it! It’s the same idea with opal.
All fine stones must be physically examined by a competent appraiser in order for you to receive a current and honest replacement price. There are pseudo opals from Mexico, painted foil with a quartz or glass top that are usually set in an enclosed silver setting. Gilson Opal is man made opal that will withstand heat to 1600-1700F. Other man made opals better described as opal simulants abound, they may be made of a combination of silica and polymers. There are
doublets, triplets and composites. OPAL made by MOTHER NATURE comes from all over the world and can cost from cents a gram to thousands of dollars a carat. An appraisal reflecting fair replacement price must be a hands on examination by a competent opal appraiser. This cannot be done over the Internet nor with pictures. We have a GIA Graduate Gemologist on staff. He will do a written appraisal for $30-50 per stone plus return postage and insurance. Lot values are done on an hourly basis. Please allow plenty of time and insure your stones yourself. We do not insure them and will not be liable in any way.
1. The closer the seller is to the point of origin, i.e. the fewer the number of owners the stone has had, the less expensive the stone will be. It would make sense that the cheaper it would be if you go direct to the mines in Australia. This conclusion would be correct if you don’t count the expenses of the trip, transportation, lodging, etc., mining etiquette, miner perceptions, conditions at the mine, including weather, cost of diesel, as well as field buyers who are always looking for a bargain and influence prices.
2. The Miner’s attitude: this is influenced by how well the mine has been producing, competition among miners for buyers, and ultimatly what the miner perceives you are willing to pay. If the miner is “cashed up” and has a refrigerator full of beer, he or she may be a little looser on price. If the miner senses that you are there for only a day or two and you really need something to take home and show off, then you will probably “pay up” for the opal or bag of rough.
3. Miners are VERY JADED: meaning they are tough bargainers. They will never give you a true sense of their financial condition; hence a newbie to the opal fields will get evey colorful story you can imagine. It’s fun to hear all their prattle and stories; however, don’t have too much fun because you are being prepared for the slaughter
4. STAGE ONE: We tell everyone who defers from buying from us because they are going to the Australian Opal Fields and will buy their opal “over there” that they are in STAGE ONE of the slaughter. STAGE ONE means you have decided to buy opal– somewhere, sometime from someone as close to the mine as possible. This means there is no going back – you cannot say No! It is only a question of when and with whom you say YES!
5. STAGE TWO: The funny story and EITHER AN INVITATION TO EAT, DRINK, ETC., OR THE COLD SHOULDER….just warm enough that you pursue them a little more (you get motivated, hungry for a purchase), and finally the invitation to look, then the bums rush– got to get to work or whatever to get you TO HURRY UP.
6. STAGE THREE: Some negotiating, “well if you can use this junk” or “if you want to see more, I can get it from the safe tonight”. Which could mean that they just want the meat to “age” a little. By tomorrow you will be really hungry to buy and they can ask even more than they would today. You ae hooked and they know it!
7. STAGE FOUR: You can’t say “No”, and they know it. Up goes the price. I know miners who use that over night period to collect parcels of cracky material from their “mates” which is OK. However, the “con man” streak is in full play, and they get parcels together that they know is from a cracky horizon in their mates’ mines and offer it really cheap. You feel gratitude and are so happy for a good price– in fact, a price too good to believe.
8. STAGE FIVE: The deal– you slobber all over yourself, have heart palpitations, but are outwardly cool when purchase price comes. You don’t know it, but you are about to be “skinned”. You get home and the opal cracks within six months.
9. STAGE SIX: You get really angry and look for that phone number, that eventually does not work.
THE REALIZATION: You are stuck.
The alterate ending is that the opal is stable, cuts fine and may be fairly priced– but you won’t know until you comparison shop at our booth or on our website. At this point the story makes several conclusions. Sometimes we hear about it and sometimes we don’t. However, (this will sound self-serving, sorry, but it’s true) we are asked for a value. We are the bearer of good or whatever is bad news. We don’t like being the bearer of bad news. Hence our standar reply is to ask the seller or anyone else but us because we will appear to be self-serving, “sour grapes” or trying to make them feel bad.
One of our most interesting stories we cite about miners is about a miner who claimed to be selling fossilized, opalized, worms from Blackgate (near Koroit, and relatively near Yowah in Australian terms). This 75 year old son of an Afgan camel herder had them labeled Phylum Annelida, class polychaeta. He knew I was a foreigner because of my dress, backpack and speech patterns. What he didn’t know was that I was a biologist and knew exactly what Annelida and polychaeta mean. (Round, segmented worms.) I was hooked and bought all that I could afford, and more. It was even better because word traveled through the indoor/outdoor show in Yowah (Queensland) that an American was at the show and spending money– cash. The final lesson is that when sellers don’t mark their goods with a price that means that they “size up ” the customer and quote a price suited to their dress, etc. If they are American the price automatically goes up. “American” in Australian is spelled “$$$$$$”
So this son of a camel herder taught us a lesson. He said, “when I think you are no longer spending money, you are no longer my friend!!!” We all laughed loudly. Funny thing was, I was through spending money. I have always wondered, who was laughing whom or what. The fact is that Aussies are a friendly lot. But on the opal fields, it is tough, dirty, dangerous work filled with many risks. Where a “blook” has to protect himself and his stuff. Never let it be known what you have or if your mine is paying, or not. One miner friend of ours summed it up: “show poor, be rich!” This is the law of the land!