The mystery and beauty that can be hidden inside of a cantera opal rough, from one of the many mines in the state of Querétaro in México.
When you purchase fire opal "en bruto" (in rough) you never know what surprises may lurk within the chunks of cantera stone. It would be great if every piece was a true gem, forty years ago this was almost true. But since their discovery and the heavy mining of opals in Querétaro and the famous mines of Magdalena during the 1960's and 1970's, miners have had a hard time finding rich veins of opal laden stone. Thus, causing prices for good quality opal to go up in value at least 40 times since the 1960's.
Finding excellent opal veins is mainly a process of luck. There might be areas of good opal, the mine walls glitter with sparkling flecks of quartz (a sign of possible opal), but they are mainly small and with only average fire. You may find areas also with excellent fire, but then comes the problem with what some people call 'impurities' in the opal bodies, like inclusion needles of white, black or brown crystals mixed with high fire.
Good opal rough is not a science, it isn't a product that can be purchased over and over again with the product remaining consistently the same. At times we have found our customers to be less than completely satisfied with their purchases of raw opal. Partially because of the lack of information available on the internet for collectors and lapidarists alike. But sometimes people expect that a gold mine of gemstone opals can be purchased at a bargain price, which nowadays is completely untrue. This is due to the prices offered for the "low grade" rough that is sold in jars of water to tourists and found on auction sites, such as eBay. The miners call these 'floor sweepings' and they usually adorn their yards with them to form planters and the larger stones are used for building walls.
All of the rough opal that we sell is handpicked by our amigos "mineros" in the mines. This is the raw material that they think has the best possibility of bringing them good quality opals to work with. So what you are getting when you buy rough from us is exactly what the miners are using to cut and polish cabochons. Of course, like any other miner in the field of gemstones they do keep the very best stashed away for themselves. Miners can be very secretive and alot of times they will not share discoveries only with other miners to keep an area of rare treasures to themselves.
As you can see the fire is stunning and the quality is excellent, with each lote producing at least 5 or more excellent cabochons. But excellent treasures can also be found in the average lotes that we sell here on the web.
Be assured that we try to sell the very best opal specimens that we can find. We learned the hard way... it took us a few years to find honest miners that were genuinely good people. The Mexican culture is a special circle of trust and friendship that takes time to work and after gaining their trust, and them ours... we have been able set up a special partnership, networking with some miners to sell special opals for them and in return to help us fill the special orders that are requested by our clients.
Be careful when buying opals on the internet and research the different kinds of opals available in Mexico before making your purchase. Sometimes you may be able to find great deals on the internet because the seller do not know the value of what they have, but sometimes a poor quality or doctored photograph will hide the fact that you are buying damaged, chipped or crazed opals as well. Alot of the stones we sell across the web, we share the profits, between us and the miner's family. A greatly appreciated added bonus for them, that leads to the incentive of a continued supply of some of their best stones that the mines can offer.
Earth view of pueblito (mining town) La Trinidad and los minas (the mines), near the town of Tequisquiapan in Querétaro, México