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Ethiopian opal with snake skin pattern -?REAL or SYNTETIC?


Hi guys,

So i have this piece of opal which i dont know is it syntetic or real. Guy selling it says of course its real and he is actually selling real Ethiopian opals. I bought it on Munich Gem fair. But can someone with expertize in Snakeskin inclusions look at video and pictures i provide and tell me did i suck again. Its 27 ct.

For reference i was using this GIA link to snakeskin pattern in wello opal. But im still not sure is it natural.

Video and pics are not of greatest quality but i tried best i can. Watch it in HD!!! I strugle little bit with focus but if you wait little bit it will get sharp :slight_smile: . and they are not filmed under good light to display play of color this is like 50% of live thing under sun or something since is in my bathroom with really bad light .

Links are Below to Youtube and Googledrive. Thanks for help in advance.



At 2:40 I can clearly see striations in the matrix that run parallel to each other throughout the stone and they appear to be in the same direction as the play of color. Very consistent. The play of color on the face without snake skin pattern appears to be “stripes” and appear to be roughly the same width as the striations seen in the matrix at 2:40… The play of color “stripes” also appear to terminate and then recur exactly where the striations do… which is also very consistent.

When you held the stone on edge just before 25 seconds into the video I noticed the striations in the matrix, like cords of muscle banded together. Around this time in the video you can look into the depths of the matrix while holding the stone on edge and you can see these striations even in the ambient lighting. This stone looks like it has the same striations as the synthetic opal my mother bought in Mexico. I’m not an authority on opal by any means but there are some hallmark features of synthetic opal that stand out to me. These bands also run through the regions of honeycomb/skin pattern and don’t appear to be subdued nor replaced in those regions within the matrix.

It would take one heck of a consistent geologic event over a period of time to generate these consistencies through such a thick chunk like yours – especially if it were formed as a sedimentary opal formation…nanometer thick layers of silica deposition, one layer at a time over and over and over. I don’t know with certainty if honeycomb/snake skin patterns/these striations are possible in lava opal formation but my intuition is that striations like these seem unlikely. The nature of lava opal formation (on the molecular scale) would be even more of a longshot I imagine, as far as the consistency of the geologic event that would be required to generate such a consistent stone… If the stone was opalized wood I could imagine coming across this kind of consistency because there is a wood grain that the silica sticks to and replaces layer by layer as the wood rots in hydrated silica, acting as scaffolding for the silica to line up along.


Well i tested is it hydrophane and i dipped one side in water and aftrer 30 minutes i immers it full im water to see if i see difference. So u can check it yourself on this link.

So if Syntetics are not hydrophane than it is Natural ethiopian i think. I shited myself. It was not so cheap ill tell u that.

Here is the link to pic.:


Iv made better video of play of color. Its great. I hope this turn out to be Natural stone. On one side when i film back side there is little space with less color. That is where i was testing is it hydrophane so and color isnt still back but over all it flashes like crazy. Very strong. Its very hard to catch play of color with camera. In real its more flashy and color are warmer.


It is a natural, untreated Ethiopian Welo opal, honeycomb pattern. I have cut tens of thousands of Welo opals since the first discovery and can tell you with 99.99999% assurance that what I see is real. Congrats on a very nice opal purchase!


BTW, Welo opals come in both hydrophane and non-hydrophane variety. The Non-hydrophane is specimen grade at best as they will eventually crack, just a matter of time as they are not really “non-hydrophane”. It may take months, but they will crack or craze.


Big thanks Doug i was scared for i have seen a lot of opals and they in bigger size in 99% have blind spots or inclusions or are just onesided or have sand etc but this one is absolutely clean with milky honeycomb thru entire stone surface, flashes thru entire surface up and down left right (video was made after playing with water so it has blind spots). And the intensity of the color is amazing. Color is clearly visible from 30 or more meters i don’t know exactly it was parking lot :).

This guy had like 500 opals and i saw this one first second it was like blinkblinkblink and i am like “what is this”. when I checked it I couldn’t believe it was natural up until now. It is absolutely perfect without any flaw no sand no dots no blind spots amazing 100% thru honeycomb. The problem was I saw like minimum 10000 opals in last two years of going to international fairs museums etc. and I never saw something like that in that size i shit u not. I know there are others even better but I didn’t saw them with my own eyes.

In any case with your experience, what would you think this piece can go per ct. since i plan on selling it and i kinda don’t know what price to ask for, i saw on opal auctions people are asking 100+ per ct for quality and size lower of this level. To be honest, i found only few on entire google to compare with this, it is very rare I think in this size,color,clarity, so i cannot think of a price to ask for. Do u have any ideas?

And yes is it wise to certify it with GIA before sell to increase its value maybe?

Thanks one more time for effort.


Doug, I have totally non-hydrophane Welo opal purchased nearly two years ago with zero cracking.


I have seen hundreds of natural Ethiopian opals with this same snakeskin pattern. And, I do know quite a bit about the subject: –


I have sold many just like that (white honeycomb pattern) for around $150 per ct. That’s about where the market is right now. People that know opals will generally try to talk you down to $100 or less per ct. I have even sold larger pieces to collectors for $75 per ct. Hope this helps. Getting an appraisal can take a chunk out of your profit, especially here in the USA. Ultimately, you have to decide your profit margin and pull the trigger accordingly.


Congrats on your non-hydrophane opal, I too have several of those that haven’t cracked, but they are black Welos and not columnar structured (Honeycomb Pattern) white Welo opals.


And? I hear you tooting your horn, but nothing constructive to help this individual out with his questions. Are you here trying to bait or help?


My apologies, dougpam. What I should have written to LoosDom is “I have seen hundreds of natural Ethiopian opals similar to yours with this type of snakeskin pattern. So, my conclusion is that yours is natural too.”


Thanks everyone for answers, was really helpfull. Well i paid it 19 euro per ct. so i would sell it for 100 without problem i think. Anyone interested :wink: