Whether you want to buy opal jewelry for yourself or as a gift for someone else, knowing what to look for will help you make a wise choice. Opals are natural stones and while each one varies due to its unique nature, there are some things you should look for and some things you should avoid.
Understanding what types of opals are available, what the differences in opal styles mean and what to look for when comparing opals will help you find the perfect piece or pieces so you will be happy with your purchase for years to come.
What Are The Different Types Of Opals?
Unless they are synthetic or manmade, all opals are naturally occurring precious stones. A large portion are mined in Australia with others coming from Mexico, Peru and America.
When it comes to different types of opals, the main difference between them is their color and place of origin.
Black opal jewelry is the most precious type of opal jewelry. Black opals are not truly black, but the body of the stone has a dark tone that allows the rainbow of colors in the stone to truly shine.
Boulder opal jewelry is mined from ironstone boulders in Queensland and the ironstone is left on the back of the opal.
These opals are usually striated with flecks of color and flecks of the boulder occurring side by side. This results in a visually striking opal that is dark and colorful.
Blue opal jewelry is commonly mined from Peru and Oregon. Displaying colors ranging from deep blue to blue green, these opals are loved by many because they are said to have healing and relaxing properties.
Pink opal jewelry is usually mined from the Andean mountains. Pink opals were prized by the Romans and seen as omens of hope and good luck. Pink opals are said to be the stone of faithful lovers and would make a beautiful, romantic gift to give your beloved.
What Kind Of Opal Styles Are There?
Opals are sold as solid opals, doublet opals and triplet opals. Solid opals are exactly that, a solid opal stone cut so the colored part of the stone is still attached to the black potch (the uncoloured part of the stone). Solid opals are mined from the earth and cut, polished and pure.
Doublet opals are thin slices of natural opals that are backed with a layer of black hard plastic or glass, vitrolite or brown ironstone to mimic the look of a natural opal.
Doublets are less expensive than solid opals and if the stone is loose, you can see a straight line of differentiation between the colored opal and the black backing.
On the other hand, if the doublet is set with its sides covered, it is extremely difficult to tell whether a stone is solid or a doublet since the top of the piece is real opal.
Triplet opals are lower in cost than both solid and doublet opals because they have less pure opal content. Like the doublets, triplets are sliced and backed with a dark background to mimic a solid opal potch, but they are sliced much thinner than a doublet.
After the stone is backed, it is then capped with a dome of glass or quartz to protect the opal, magnify the color of the opal and to give the piece a cabochon top.
In addition to being less expensive, triplets are often more resilient than other opal styles because of their protective top layer. Opals are by nature a very fragile stone, so keep this in mind when you purchase a piece.
What Should I Look For When I Am Buying Opals?
Now that you know a little more about opals, finding opal jewelry sets or pieces you love should be a bit easier. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you shop for opals.
Each stone is unique. No two stones are alike, so take the time to really look around and find an opal that appeals to you.
Ask for a certificate of authenticity. This insures you are getting a certified piece and holds the dealer accountable for delivering quality goods. This certificate is also good for resale value and insurance purposes.
Inspect your stone for cracks and faults. A cracked opal is a poor investment, so hold it up to the light to make sure there are no cracks.
Opals are brilliant, fiery stones with personality and flash. Use this information to help you buy the perfect opal for yourself or a loved one and enjoy a beauty only nature could create.