Though Opal was first discovered in the 1880’s, Ethiopian Opal didn’t make an appearance until much lat-er. In 1939, Anthropologist Louis Leakey suggested that Opal deposits could be found in Africa. Leakey made this suggestion after discovering tools that were crafted from Opal in a Kenyan cave. Years later, the tools were found to date back to 4000 years B.C. Though Leakey claimed that Ethiopian Opal existed, it wasn’t until 1994 that his theory was proved correct. At this date, Geologist, D. N. Barot, witnessed the stones being traded in Nairobi. After Dr Barot relayed what he had seen, fellow Geologist, Telahun Yo-hannes, began searching for Ethiopian Opal. Before long, Yohannes came across a series of Opal mines in the heart of Ethiopia. Not only did his discovery put Ethiopia on the map as one of the largest Opal sources, but it also revealed a new variety of the stone which was later named ‘Chocolate Opal’. In this article, we explore Ethiopian Opal in more detail.
Due to the unique appearance of Ethiopian Opal, the stone is fairly easy to identify. The mineral has a dis-tinct brown colour which makes it easy to distinguish from other varieties of Opal. The base colour of the stone can range from light brown to chocolate brown. Typically, darker specimens hold the highest value due to their intense colouring. In addition to the brown base colour, Ethiopian Opal boasts a range of col-oured specks. A variety of neon colours including orange, red, green, white, blue, yellow, gold, and tur-quoise can be seen in the stone. To this date, no other varieties of Opal have exhibited turquoise colours. Because of this, Ethiopian Opal is one of the most sought-after varieties of Opal in the world. As no other variety of the stone is able to replicate the mystical appearance of Ethiopian Opal, it can easily be identi-fied by the untrained eye.
Ethiopian Opal boasts a chocolate brown colouring. Though the base colour of the stone is always brown, the exact tone can vary between specimens. Typically, the colour ranges from light brown to deep choco-late brown. In addition to the brown base colour, Ethiopian Opal boasts a range of coloured specks. The highest value specimens are those that display an intense play of colour and a unique snakeskin pattern. Specimens that display all colours of the spectrum are labelled ‘Chocolate Opal Fire’. Stones of this nature are particularly popular amongst gem collectors.
The transparency of Ethiopian Opal is typically translucent to opaque; however, semi-transparent speci-mens can sometimes be found. Most specimens will exhibit small fractures and inclusions, though these do not generally affect the value. As a specimen without inclusions is particularly rare, they can be sold for a high price. Ethiopian Opal is typically cut en cabochon. This cutting technique best displays the stones wide variety of colours. The mineral is typically cut into rounds or ovals, though other shapes can be cre-ated, including hearts and trillions. Ethiopian Opal is sometimes heat treated to enhance its colour. During the heat treatment, the stone is often smoked. If the stone has undergone any treatment it has to be disclosed when it is sold. Smoked Ethiopian Opal is often sold as ‘Ethiopian Black Opal’. Smoked Ethiopian Opal is regarded as a cheaper alternative to Australian Black Opal.
Ethiopian Opal is formed within layers of volcanic ash. Typically, Ethiopian Opals are formed at relatively low temperatures, unlike other volcanic-born stones. Today, the stone is only found in Yita Ridge, a small town located 150 miles from the capital. Though Ethiopian Opal is one of the most popular stones in the world, the Opal-rich mines only cover a few square miles.
Like most gemstones, Ethiopian Opal boasts a variety of healing properties. The stone is believed to strengthen the will to live and help its beholder to appreciate the beauty of life. With this in mind, the mineral can benefit those suffering from depression and mental illness. Ethiopian Opal is also thought to strengthen the heart and regulate the metabolism, making it ideal for those trying to lose weight. The stone can also be used to release sexual tension and to help its beholder deal with new emotions. Darker varieties of the stone are said to absorb pain and illness and replace it with positive warm feelings.
A specific variety of Ethiopian Opal, Chocolate Opal Fire, boasts it’s own range of healing benefits. The stone can support its beholder through life’s emotional turmoil, helping its owner to let go of the negative emotions associated with grief. Physically, the stone is thought to combat pain in the neck and spine. With this in mind, the stone is popular amongst those suffering from back pain and tension headaches. Chocolate Opal Fire can also be used for warming and re-energising the body, as well as healing the intes-tines and kidneys.
Ethiopian Opal is popular worldwide. Today, the mineral is mined solely from Yita Ridge, a small town lo-cated 150 miles from Ethiopia’s capital. Loved for its intense colour play and waxy lustre, Ethiopian Opal is often used in designer jewellery. Whether you’re hoping to use the stone for its benefits within crystal healing or you’re looking for a beautiful new addition to your jewellery collection, purchase a piece of Ethiopian Opal to reap the benefits.