Opal Exclusively is the passion and brainchild of recently retired Ann Arbor dentist Larry Sklar. Here is the Opal Exclusively story in Larry’s own words.
I learned how to cut stones into cabochons when I was 12 years old, and at the conclusion of that class I took an additional course in opal cutting. I still remember the excitement I felt as I cut down through the potch (colorless opal) and exposed the thin color bar within my first piece of rough opal. It was almost as if the stone suddenly came to life, and I was the lucky one to witness the magical emergence of colors. That thrill still exists to this day, each and every time I cut into a rough piece of opal. It is precisely that rush, which is as strong today as it was almost 50 years ago that gradually led to my addiction to opals.
Over the years I was fortunate to be exposed to higher grades of opal, including one summer (1982) during my University of Michigan days when I was hired to cut opal for a local jeweler who liked to purchase rough, but was not a cutter himself. Unfortunately after that, however, my cutting dwindled due to the high cost and low supply of rough gem grade Australian opal. There’s plenty of commercial grade rough Australian opal available, however the best material is always cut and sold as finished pieces since the value of a finished opal far exceeds the rough value. During this time, I began building a beautiful collection of boulder opals, as well as learning as much as I could about the different types, localities, and properties of opal.
The emergence of Ethiopian Welo opal, in 2008, has been a game changer. The Ethiopians were not fully aware of the quality and characteristics of their opal in comparison to Australian opal, and priced the rough far below comparable Australian material. For the first time ever, I was able to buy a large quantity of terrific opal - including true gem quality - for a very reasonable cost. This enabled me to get my cutting groove back, and I started cutting many, many stones.
The toughest part has always been finding reliable sources for the rough, and I’ve been lucky to work with suppliers directly in Ethiopia as well as meeting suppliers at the annual Tucson gem shows. I got the feeling early on that the lower cost of rough material, and corresponding lower cost of cut stones, relative to comparable Australian opal, would help bring gem quality opal into the mainstream. It turns out that I was right - lower cost, coupled with dazzling colors, fascinating patterns, and unusual physical properties has led to a surge in the popularity of the Ethiopian Welo opal.
Before I knew it, I had several boxes of cut stones and the thought struck me – what on earth am I going to do with all these opals??! The answer was obvious – sell them! And so Opal Exclusively was officially born. My sales career started at the 2010 Ann Arbor Art Fairs, as I went around cold-calling on any jewelry artists I came across who displayed opal jewelry. The Ethiopian opal was virtually unknown at that time, and there were (and still are, unfortunately) many naysayers who questioned the stability and validity of the Ethiopian opals. I had enough success, however, to keep going. I’ve returned to the Art Fairs every year, and over the past few years tried to visit as many other local art fairs as possible every summer. In addition, I’ve called on several local jewelry stores and have several stones on display at a few of them. I also sell my opals on Instagram and an online site called Opal Auctions.
My goal is to one day be known as THE guy to call if you’re looking for a beautiful, well-cut Ethiopian Welo opal. Every stone I cut is a labor of love, and I don’t cut for mass production but rather to bring out the individual beauty of each piece of rough.
Thank YOU for taking the time to read this and learn a bit more about ME.