Hi there James, nice to have you join us here. I agree with Chuck, you will be a valuable asset here. And you might have some fun too!
Pink, you won't have to save too many pennies. I've been selling this material for as low as 2 to 3 dollars per carat for nice bright red fire pieces in the $1NR section. I have top grade material in lager sizes that's a little more expensive, but the smaller pieces have been going pretty cheap. I guess that's why they call them "loss leaders". But it lets some great opal get into cutters' hands at a reasonable price. I'm very excited about this material and have several on my dop sticks right now. Currently I am using double stick tape for dopping.
TopShelf, thank you for posting those wonderful pictures. We all look forward to your upcoming guide to Welo cutting and polishing, in which Doug reveals all!!! Whatever they are doing, it is working. Those are beautiful opals with excellent cut and polish.
So far, I have seen this opal cut in many ways, from handling it with kid gloves and cutting it completely dry, with files and sandpaper to treating it just like any other opal, with hot dop wax, wet grinding at 220, etc., followed by cerium oxide polishing. I've seen them cut with all diamond tools, with water and waterless. I've heard of everything from bamboo to tripoli and jewelers rouge to cerium to carnauba wax to diamond to ashes as a polishing medium. Yes, ashes, for that final show level polish.
Tradition holds that the first black opals were polished with knife polish, whatever that is....
In short, I think we have all begun to show that this opal will cut and polish in just about any way you approach it. I admit to being intimidated by the "fade to clear" property to begin with but now that I've convinced myself that they will dry out and the color will return.
I've never been able to afford opal with this much color before. My fear is that prices will rise at the sources and the rough will soon be matching Australian prices. Then we'll have to save more than pennies. i encourage everyone to try a piece or two while we can all still afford it. Several sellers are offering this material, so you have plenty of choices among sellers.