What’s It Worth? The Mesmerizing Iridescence Of Opals

Ninety-nine percent of opals are what we a call commercial opals. Meaning, whitish with a small play of color. The play of color makes all the difference in the evaluation of opals. Most white opals have little fire or color play. Finer opals have brilliant color play. More sought- after opals are so-called black opals, which are black and dark blue or reddish purple, etc. This week, we obtained three cool examples.

Valuation is all over the board for several reasons. Play of color, translucency and origin are important. Lightning Ridge opals (from New South Wales, Australia) are some of the most sought-after because of their incredible color. (Please note our pictures don’t begin to show how fiery these opals are in real life.)

Figure A is a typical opal that you see on cruise ships or in mall-type stores. The stone’s loose wholesale value is $10 to $20. Figure B is a very unusual boulder opal — that is stuck between other pieces of stone. As you can see, the colorful nature of this is extraordinary. We bought this from a Baltimore Jeweler for a few hundred dollars.

It’s typically called a boulder matrix opal and we have identified the mine that it came from as Yowah (in Queensland, Australia). The stone is large and incredible but because tiny pieces of opal matrix are missing, it’s likely only worth $1,000-$2,000. We are still investigating. Figure C is an incredible 36-carat opal with some of the most amazing play of color we’ve ever seen. We bought this from a Virginia jeweler for $7,500. While the appraised value would be well over $25,000, we will likely wholesale it to another dealer for around $8,500 – $9,000. This is what we call the fair market value.

Figure D is a Lightning Ridge Opal made for Bailey, Banks & Biddle by Hymen Brothers, a signed and numbered Art Deco piece in the 1930s. Unfortunately, these large black opals have crazing, which are surface-reaching imperfections that resemble tiny cracks. This BB&B piece would be worth $8,000 to $10,000 if the opals were not crazed. As always, condition is very important, as are eye appeal and age. When you add it all together, an older, eye-appealing, fiery opal can be worth $10,000 to $30,000. Keep in mind that most opals you see are worth very little.

If you have an opal, opal jewelry or vintage jewelry you would like to sell — pay us a visit. If you need an appointment in St. Petersburg or Tampa, give us a call or email JeffreyPHess@aol.com.

Stop by one of our locations or we will meet you at your home, bank, or attorney’s office.

Always buying diamonds, fine wristwatches, pocket watches and expensive jewelry. Gold is high; sell NOW! You’ve seen us in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine and the New York Times. We are internationally known buyers of fine gems and watches No estate too small or too large. No estate too small or too large.

JEFF HESS, Owner & Appraiser.
Comments, questions or suggestions for this column, please send to jeffreyphess@aol.com.
St. Petersburg 1131 4th St. N, St. Petersburg FL 33701. 727.898.4377.
Tampa International Plaza, 813.875.3935. Contact Us
Old Northeast Jewelers, Fine Jewelry and Watches, Buying and Selling since 1984.

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