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A 5.95-carat black opal will be among the lots offered at the auction
A 5.95-carat black opal will be among the lots offered at the auction

‘Rare’ Australian opals hit world stage

A selection of rare Australian opals will take centre stage at an upcoming live auction event that is expected to attract considerable international interest.

The Rarities Auction, which will be held online for one hour on 4 May, will allow interested buyers from across the world to bid on five ‘rare’ Australian opals.

Wayne Sedawie, director of Opal Auctions, the Queensland-based business that is hosting the event, claimed the auction would be unique.

“For the first time … an opal industry specialist is holding a live online auction with hand-selected precious natural opals,” he stated. “We wanted to showcase Australia’s opal to the world. We have been searching for the right pieces for over a year now and we are delighted with the opals we have to offer.”

During the auction, Sedawie and two other members of the opal industry – Paul Sedawie, president of the Opal Association of Australia, and Chris Gawthorp, a professional opal miner and cutter with 35 years’ experience – will discuss the five locally sourced pieces.

The lots include a 5.95-carat black opal from Lightning Ridge in NSW, a 15.8-carat boulder opal, a 6.8-carat dark opal with a harlequin pattern, a crystal opal set in an 18-carat gold pendant with diamonds, and a pair of opal inlay earrings created by US jewellery designer David Freeland Jnr.

Increasing demand
Wayne Sedawie, Opal Auctions director
Wayne Sedawie, Opal Auctions director

When asked why Opal Auctions had decided to hold the sale, Sedawie said there had been increased demand for Australian black opal over the last four months. 

“There [are] always trending opals – last year it was Ethiopian opal, this year, proudly, it’s Australian black opal,” he commented. “Many top designers, including Cartier, have featured Australian black opal in their collections this year, which has increased awareness of opals around the world.”

As an indicator of demand, Sedawie stated that 60 per cent of Opal Auctions’ total sales were Australian opal, with the other 40 per cent being a combination of Ethiopian, Mexican, Brazilian and US opal. He added that approximately 86 per cent of customers were international, with the US and the UK being the biggest buyers, accounting for 65 per cent of sales.

Sewadie said “international love” for opals was on the rise, but acknowledged that locally, there was still stigma surrounding opal jewellery due to the many years it had been pedalled in Australian tourist regions as “cheap, souvenir-type merchandise”.

“This was a great tool to promote Australian opals to the world but may have had an adverse effect on consumers’ understanding [of] the true value of a solid Australian opal,” he stated. “It is through time and education that consumers will begin to understand how precious solid Australian opals are.”

Sedawie attributed the recent lift in demand for Australian black opal to changing attitudes towards the gemstone.

“The movement has already begun,” he said. “With the popularity of the Australian opal being highlighted by world-renowned jewellers, it would be fantastic to see some of our up-and-coming jewellers from Australia and New Zealand creating pieces also.

“By having Australian jewellers create beautiful pieces that showcase Australian opals, we will be able to show the world how magnificent their craft and Australian opals truly are.”

The ‘rarities’

6.8-carat dark opal with harlequin pattern
6.8-carat dark opal with harlequin pattern
15.8-carat boulder opal
15.8-carat boulder opal

Crystal opal gold pendant with diamonds
Crystal opal gold pendant with diamonds
Opal inlay earrings by David Freeland Jnr
Opal inlay earrings by David Freeland Jnr

More reading
Opal market improves locally and internationally
Rare Aussie opal makes international headlines
Boulder opal jewellery awards revitalised
Opal discovery is out of this world
Aussie gemstones: Opal

Friday, 19 April, 2019 09:09am
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