There is a lot of excitement about a new kind of opal found in the
Welo (sometimes spelled Wello or Wallo) region of Ethiopia. It was just discovered in 2008 and it
is considered the most stable opal yet found in Africa. Opal was previously found in other areas
of Ethiopia. It is often very beautiful but has a reputation for being unstable
(prone to cracking or crazing). This Welo
a little patience to cut properly, but by most accounts, once cut it
has proven to be every bit as stable as Australian opal. The fire is
generally very bright, usually 4 to 5 on the 5 point brightness scale!
These opal gems display the full spectrum of colors with red being very
prevalent. They also display a wide range of fire patterns and base
colors. There are Welo opals displaying harlequin patterns,
rolling flash, chaff patterns, floral patterns and virtually every
other pattern recognized in Australian opal. And then some!
Some show amazing rainbow patterns. If you look closely at the opal
pictured at left, it shows an unique feature sometimes seen in Welo
opals. It shows an internal cellular pattern sometimes called
honeycomb. This structure is apart from the base color or the fire
pattern. You'll also notice that it has a bi-colored base, being amber
colored on the right side and translucent milky white on the other side.
The opal material from Welo is usually "hydrophane", which basically means that it can absorb a great deal of water. When dry hydrophane material is soaked in water, it causes the base color to clear up...sometimes highlighting the play-of-color, sometimes making it vanish! If soaked in water, it can take from a few hours to two weeks to completely dry out and return to it original state. You should not try and accelerate the drying by any artificial means like a lamp, for it could cause cracking.
The price of this opal has risen dramatically and well may
continue to do so. The Ethiopian
government has taken control of the mines and is controlling most all
of the material coming onto the market now. But prices at this point
are still very reasonable compared to equally bright opals from
Australia or Brazil. On the right is a picture of a piece of Welo
Anyone who loves and appreciates opals is sure to fall in
love with Welo opals. They can be mesmerizing! The colors can be almost
unbelievably bright. They show an endless variety of base colors, patterns and
Go here to find finished Welo opals for sale
Anyone who loves and appreciates opals is sure to fall in love with Welo opals. They can be mesmerizing! The colors can be almost unbelievably bright. They show an endless variety of base colors, patterns and colors.