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Friday, September 23, 2011

Gem Jewel: Breaking News! Ethiopian Opal

This is the beautiful untreated hydrophane
opal that draws us to Ethiopian Opal
from EthiopianOpals.com
I just got an email from one of my mentors and a woman whose mark on the Gemological World is undeniable... from Antoinette Matlins:


"For all of you opal lovers, especially those who have been drawn to Ethiopian opal, here's some breaking news that may cause you to pause. 

As you may know, there is some lovely, natural Ethiopian opal. And recently, a beautiful "black" Ethiopian opal began entering the market, from Welo (or Wollo, however you want to spell it). It is all represented to be natural and untreated; furthermore, "natural color" has been "confirmed" by several laboratories. Questions recently arose over some especially beautiful pieces, however, for a variety of reasons. 

Cara and Bear Williams found themselves unexpectedly undertaking a significant study on this material. They have just posted their findings and it is an article that is MUST READING.

Their findings and conclusions appear to be unequivocal: In short, what they are saying is that of all the "black" material they have seen and tested to date, they can confirm that it has all been either treated or unstable. 

Here's the link: http://www.stonegrouplabs.com/SmokeTreatmentinWolloOpal.pdf

For those of you who are hesitant to download .pdf files - the information can also be found on our Scribd page:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/66009568/SmokeTreatmentinWolloOpal

While smoking techniques are not new where opal is concerned, this is a new variation on the old smoking method! The old technique used on low quality Mexican opal, for example, to darken the material to create a more fiery play of color — wrap the opal tightly in brown paper, place in covered container, heat over medium heat until the paper is completely charred, cool and wash — affected only the surface. But in this material, cutting the material revealed that the darkening effect penetrated the entire stone. Cara and Bear discovered not only that they are smoked, but how they did it! It's compelling reading, and the findings appear to be indisputable. To read more about their research and findings, go to the links Robyn provided in his blog.

I hope that other major labs will review this study immediately and re-examine their own testing and methodology with regard to this material. I'm confident that they will concur with the findings of Cara and Bear. This material is now being sold all over the internet, and at trade shows, and everywhere else, as natural. Laboratory reports confirming the material to be "natural" must now also be questioned based on this new research...especially since they accompany some of the larger and most beautiful pieces. 

Way to go Cara and Bear! I know you invested a lot of time and effort into uncovering this deception and writing up your findings quickly so that the word can be circulated. The sooner the word gets out as to what this really is, the better. I love the product, and the treatment appears to be permanent, but as we all agree, it must be properly represented...and priced."
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