Opal exhibition showcases emerging export opportunity

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Though there has been evidence of the Wollo Opal’s existence since the 1930s, commercialized mining of the precious gem in Ethiopia has not lived up to its potential. In fact, it was only in 2008 that the government started exporting it.
One company which specializes in the production of the gem is Yeabzer Gemstones Gallery. The gallery, which was established in 2012, sources its gems from brokers who in turn get then from farmers and miners in the Wollo region in Amhara National Regional State.
Three types of Opals are available at the Bole Medhanialem gallery, and they vary by grade. You’ll pay USD 30-50 per carot for the highest, which is hard to come by, USD 25 for the second grade, while the third grade opal can be had for as little as USD 2. Of course the price of the gem increases when it is polished and shaped.
Yeabzer in association with Royal Opals, Takele Yilma and Meruts opal exports prepared its third exhibition at the Hilton on February 21, 2014. At the exhibition, Yeabzer displayed polished Citrines, Tourmaline, Amethysts, Petrified Wood, and Amazonite, among others. These jewels were also seen in the rough or set in jewels as finished products.
Esayas Abebe owner of Yeabzer, says that the exhibition is prepared to create awareness about Ethiopian gems and promote them to embassies. Yeabzer previously sent the gems abroad, to be set in gold or silver. But now he started to provide that service here.
“The gem extraction system of Ethiopia is very backward,” Esayas says. “Besides that there are no limits imposed on the quantity exported to other countries. Precious stones are precious because of their rarity. The more a country exports a product, the more common it becomes, thus diminishing its value,”
Ethiopia earned USD 176 million from the export of minerals in the first half of this fiscal year. Australia is the largest producer of Opals followed by Ethiopia. Large deposits are found in Honduras, Sudan, Hungary, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.  Esayas says that he exports most of the company’s jewels to the USA, China, Hong Kong and Thailand.