China's First Major Gem Show to Feature the Australian Opal

China's First Major Gem Show to Feature the Australian Opal
Black Opals from Cody Opal Australia
(Courtesy Cody Opal)

Australia’s national gemstone, the opal, has been chosen as the feature gemstone of China’s first top-level international mineral and gem exposition, the state-approved China (Changsha) Mineral and Gem Show (CMGS).

To be held at the Hunan International Conference & Exhibition Centre from May 16-20, the CMGS will feature more than 1000 mineral and gem exhibitors, museum curators, professional buyers, and collectors from more than 50 countries.

The decision to feature the Australia opal reflects growing interest in the gemstone which has seen some of the world’s top jewellery designers such as Victoire de Castellane of Dior Fine Jewellery and American jewellery designer Irene Neuwirth feature opals in recent collections.

Helping CMGS with their opal-themed first edition are Australian opal dealers Andrew and Damien Cody of Melbourne-based Cody Opal Australia. Established in 1971, Cody Opal is considered one of the leading opal cutters, wholesalers, and exporters in Australia.

Andrew and Damien are also directors of The National Opal Collection which holds the world’s most important collection of opalised fossils and opal specimens. Around 100 items from the National Opal Collection will be on show at the CMGS and will remain in China for six months during which they will feature in a special museum exhibition.

To find out more about the CMGS show and the decision to feature the Australian opal, ARTINFO Australia got in touch with Damien Cody who took time away from his busy schedule to answer a few questions.

What is the significance of the decision by the China Mineral and Gem Show to feature the opal?

In Mainland China a massive $120 billion was spent on luxury jewellery and coloured gemstones in 2012 alone. Australian opal represents a very small amount of this. I would estimate that Australia is exporting only around $60-80M to HK and China at the moment.

The potential seems limitless, however there are some barriers to success. This show is one of the first steps towards gaining a share of the coloured stone market and removing some of the impediments to smooth and efficient trade.

How are you involved with the fair?

Cody Opal owns The National Opal Collection. This is a world-class collection of opalised fossils from the dinosaur age as well as some incredible specimens of the Australian Opal. On display will be around 100 special pieces from the collection, showcased amongst dioramas of prehistoric Australia. Cody Opal as well as a number of other Australian opal companies will also exhibit and sell opal gems from all of the mining fields to this newly infatuated and growing market.

Why was the opal chosen as the feature gem for the fair?

Australian Opal fits nicely in to all three categories ie. gem, fossil, and mineral, which is what CMGS is all about.

What items from The National Opal Collection will be exhibited at the fair?

Amongst the exhibits will be rare opalised dinosaur bones, dinosaur teeth, and an incredible plate of opalised shells.

Is the Australian opal a popular stone in China?

The popularity of opal is growing very quickly in China. The industry has experienced very rapid growth in demand from mainland China in recent international gem and jewellery trade shows.

An increasing number of jewellery designers seem to be using opals in their designs, why do you think this is?

Most of the very famous jewellery fashion houses have had a resurgence in their affection for Australian Opal. The Paris Biennale de Antiquare is a very good barometer of the fashion for jewellery design. Opal has featured very prominently there.

Who are the main buyers of fine Australian opals?

Fine opals are in big demand. Sales are outstripping supply in the very high end of the market. This is true for many luxury items at the moment. There is particularly strong demand coming from Europe, USA, Taiwan, and China.