If there’s one name that’s renowned within the Australian opal industry, it’s PAUL SEDAWIE. His career began back in 1986 when he fell in love with opals at the mine sites of Lightning Ridge. After spending nine months both mining and creating contacts with dealers, he made the best decision of this life - to pursue a career in opals.
That was a whopping 36 years ago and he still continues today. In fact, Paul has been a major influencer in the Australian opal industry by creating successful businesses and promoting Australia’s national gemstone both at home and internationally.
One of his major milestones was the creation of Seda Opals back in 1994. After 28 years, you can definitely say that the company is successful. His brother Wayne began working alongside Paul back in 1999, and keeping in the family theme, Paul’s two sons are also now involved.
“All sales are online now” says Paul. “Years ago I used to travel overseas to trade shows promoting Australian opal. Nowadays all the buyers are either dead, divorced or bankrupt (laughs)”.
Seda Opals and their associates feature on opalauctions.com - a collective auction site where opal traders advertise around 30,000 opals. Paul is hoping to get this up to 40,000. This online business is headed by Wayne Sedawie, and has four full time staff and a great online presence. “Only 10-15% of buyers are from Australia. The main market is America, but it often changes with Germany and Asia being up there as well. Many people buy opal as an investment, they study the market and the buying sites. They’ll look at up to 20 sites before buying. People are very price conscious, and opal is an unusual product that’s hard to value. It’s subjective, unlike diamonds. Opal prices are very low compared to other gemstones, even though finding a stone is very rare. Some people will only find one great quality stone in their lifetime.”
Another of Paul Sedowie’s achievements was The Australian Opal Centre in Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. A museum and gift shop that operated for many years, it was home to Paul’s magnificent collection of gem stones and fossils (over 400 pieces). The Centre closed about 6 years ago, however a new exciting venture is underway in Lightning Ridge. ‘The Australian Opal Centre’ is currently under construction, and will be a not for profit underground tourist attraction, funded by donations, sponsorship, and government subsidy. Paul has kindly donated his impressive collection to the Centre, and this will be his legacy.
Paul is the president of the Opal Association of Australia, and has been for the past 12 years. It’s a fantastic organisation providing great information to the public and a place where buyers can be confident in whom they are trading with. The website www.opal.asn.au has some wonderful material and assists in promoting Australian opal to the world.
Opals are still Paul’s passion. His life on a day to day basis involves constantly talking to people within the industry, buying opal, and overseeing staff. “It’s hard to find a good supply and the right stock. I regularly visit the mines in Andamooka, Lightning Ridge, Coober Pedy, and Winton. I do on occasion take a trip overseas, and recently picked up a parcel of Australian opals in Bangkok.”
He’s a self-confessed addict when it comes to buying opal in the rough. “It’s basically a gamble knowing what’s inside, but fortunately I have a knack of choosing the good stuff. It’s a risk, and one that often pays off. Many times I show the miner what I found”. Paul treats the miners supplying his rough with respect and is always fair with pricing. Personally he only cuts and polishes the ‘good’ rough stones. “Sometimes a decent stone can take up to 3 days to cut.” His son Ross cuts and polishes for commercial purposes.
When we asked Paul if he had any regrets throughout his time in the industry, his only regret is certain opal sales. He loves opal so much that he forms emotional attachments to some of his pieces. It’s hard for him to part with them, even though he gets right price. His criteria on opal sales and the value of a good stone is that if he gets pleasure looking at it for up to 12 months, he knows it’s a valuable piece. “Opal has such a captivating quality - that’s why there are so many opal clubs. You don’t get clubs for Peridot!”.
Many thanks to Paul Sedawie for his time. It was a pleasure.