The well known opal industry of Australia is struggling due to the global economic downturn and readily available synthetic opals.
Opal which is also the national gemstone of Australia is very popular for its display of light and color.
According to the New Zealand Herald the situation is so bad that the world’s only tertiary level course on opal cutting in Coober Pedy has been scrapped. Stuart Jackson, the founder of the course said “Opal is a luxury item and times are tough, so people aren’t buying it”. Coober Pedy is said to be the opal capital of the world.
Synthetic opals manufactured in Japan are made from plastic and silica.
Showrooms in Coober Pedy as well as in Sydney display synthetic opals for sale, sometimes the opals are sold as natural to tourists.
According to the opal industry alliance, it is not illegal to sell man made opals, if it is labeled as such.
97% of the world’s production of natural opals are from Southern Australia. For the miners in Southern Australia it is becoming more and more difficult to find buyers for natural opals as many of them have switched to synthetic.