Australian Outback Adventures: Yowah Opal Festival (Cheapest Opals in Australia)

January 16, 2016 Wing N. 0 Comments

Whether you are looking for a cheap opal or a true outback experience, the Yowah Opal Festival should be on your itinerary.  Australia is known for many of its natural resources and opals are probably on the top of that list.  The cheapest way to purchase it would be through a wholesale resource just like any other commodity.

Opal on display at the exhibit
What is this festival?

The Yowah Opal Festival is hands-down the most prestigious annual gathering in the opal trade.  Businesses are looking for opal miners who can provide them quality opal at a good price for their business, opal miners are here to find buyers. Although the festival isn't held for the average Joe, it gives everyone who desires a precious gem a chance to get them at a bargain!
the marketplace 

At Night:

The Festival starts out with a night of bonfire that is taller than all of us.  The firewood required was so chunky, they had to use construction machinery to drive it over.  Everyone gathers around the fire while we wait for the all-you-can-eat BBQ.  We eat to our heart's content with live folk music playing in the background on the little stage.  Most of the participants knows each other since it's not that big of an industry and all the miners, polishers and sellers have some business with one another at any point in time.
Not much lighting aside from these and the fire
A miner looking into the fire

Chris enjoying the warmth of the fire

really good BBQ buffet resembling American Southern food
embers flying high
In The Morning:

The booths are set up before the break of dawn, ready for buyers to have their treasure hunt. You can always try to bargain for better deals than priced.  The more you buy from the same stall, the cheaper it can get.  Often times they sell more than just opals.  You can find all sorts of gems including pearls and fossils around the market.  Walk around, talk to people, don't commit until you're really ready.  Oh and definitely bring at least a couple hundred dollars of cash with you, most if not all stalls are cash only.




Tips on Finding Good Opal:

Many vendors will have buckets of opals sitting in water.  Opals have a crystalline structure that absorbs water, making it easier for light to travel and thus reflect from.  Make sure the opal stone shines even without water.  While choosing your opals, dry the surface and set them aside. Decide at the end which piece of opal strikes your fancy.

The price of a piece of opal is fairly subjective.  There is no actual scale for the pricing and it is fairly flexible in terms of market value.  You look for the value of an opal through three characteristics: the patterns, the color of light reflected through the opal, and the way light reflects off of it.  The rare colors in opals are blacks and reds.  Patterns can range from matrixes (kind of holographic)  to pinfires (dots/ rays of holographic patterns).  Marine opals are mainly blue and green and will cover the whole surface of the gem.  Boulder opals are stones or fossolized trees embedded with streaks of opals through them.  The small moonstone like opals with firepin or matrix patterns through them can be very valuable due to the rarity of pure opals.  Overall, how much you like a piece of opal should be the deciding factor on whether you will purchase it.  There is no point in having some really expensive piece of rock with you if you don't love it.


There are also exhibits set up for rare opals and opals that has been incorporated in sculptures and other art forms.









Location: 

The bargains are extremely attractive, but the festival is never crowded with tourists due to its geological disposition.  The location of this annual festival is in the heart of the great outback of Australia.  For those who are unfamiliar with the outback, I will try to put things into perspective.  Yowah is a small town/ community.  According to the 2006 census, Yowah had a population of 142.  We visited the town in July 2015, according to the locals we spoke to the population has since then decreased to around 50 residents.  This town is 132 km (82mi) from Brisbane, the nearest city.  The annual festival is the single big event that gathers several hundred attendants to help support the town.
putting things into perspective, Yowah is over 13 hours away from the closest city.

Accomodation:

The town is too small with too little traffic over other times of the year for any accomodation.  Your best bet is camping in a tent or sleep in your car.  It's quite nice to be able to chit chat with our neighbors, we learned lots about opals quality and mining.



Our bed in serenity.

A few of our own purchases:

We have purchased quite a few boulder opals that we absolutely love ranging from $5-20 a piece depending on how rare the pattern and colors were.  (the ones shown below were less than $10 each) Throughout our travels we seeked for similar opals to estimate pricing and most were 2-5 times more expensive than our purchases.



If you love the adventure and have the time and money around July, I would highly recoomend that you visit the Yowah Opal Festival.  The opal miners are really hurting at the moment as demand is plummeting.  By visiting, you can support local businesses and people's livlihood.  The opals are cheaper than you can find anywhere else and definitely genuine as experts are all in the area to call out fawks gems.  If you are interested, you might even be able to make a bit of profit by reselling the opals you obtain there elsewhere!

Would you go to the Yowah Opal Festival if you're in the country around July?  Which one of the exhibit pieces did you like most?

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