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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Ethiopian Opals

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SpecimenCatalog NumberLocalityWeight
OpalNMNH G10623-00Shewa Province, Ethiopia8.86 ct
OpalNMNH G10622-00Ethiopia33.15 ct

Gift of Opalinda and EyaOpal in 2009.

Opals from Mezezo, Ethiopia have been well-known since the mid-1990s for their play-of-color chocolate opals. Other deposits discovered in 2008 from Wollo yield precious white, fire, crystal and sometimes black opals and are the predominant Ethiopian opals in the gem trade. The opals you see here are a chocolate opal cabochon from Mezezo (8.86ct), and a crystal opal cabochon (33.15ct) and rough specimen (643.9ct) from Wollo. Gem opal consists of tiny silica spheres tightly packed together; the voids or spaces between the spheres contain air or water. The play-of-color in opal is due to the orderly arrangement of these spheres acting like a diffraction grating, breaking visible white light in to separate colors. Opals are typically cut en cabochon or polished free-form to best show the play-of-colors. These beautiful Ethiopian opals are a wonderful addition and upgrade to the National Gem Collection.



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