The Ethiopian Welo Opal

Rough Welo Opal mined in Ethiopia

Opals have always been revered as a beautiful and significant gemstone, carrying qualities that are unique compared to other gemstones. Derived from the Latin word “opalus,” it literally translates as “precious stone.”

18k yellow gold earrings with Welo Opals

In the past, most opals were mined in places like Australia, Mexico, Ireland and even the United States, but have been recently discovered in Africa. The recent discovery (within the past five years) occurred in the Welo Amhara Plateau (southern region of Welo) in northern Ethiopia. These newly mined hydrophane opals carry bright orange, neon green, fiery rays of red and radiant blue tones that shine through the translucent silica like a rainbow.



The term “hydrophane” derives from Greek; translated, means water (hydro), and having like qualities (phane). All opals contain water, and the hydrophane opals contain a level ranging from three to ten percent (opals have been known to contain a water volume as high as twenty percent). Water as a property makes them very distinctive with color bursts truly unique to the hydrophane opal.



Beaded Opal necklace and Bezel set opal ring, 18k yellow gold & diamonds

The beauty of the hydrophane opal offers versatility in the setting. It is generally safer to set opals with a bezel, as a bezel (fully surrounded by metal) offers a good base of protection for the gemstone. Since the hydrophane opal does contain water, special care should be taken when cleaning an opal. The best recommendation for cleaning an opal is to take it to a professional. If this is not an option, then simply use water and a very soft brush. Rinse the opal and scrub it gently while submersed for only a few seconds.

Partita offers a variety of different pieces with hydrophane opals, which include opal studs, earrings, a gold bezel-set ring and pendant. Come in and experience the beautiful world of the hydrophane opal.