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Types Of Opals

different types of opals

White opal – Opaque, milky white with speckles, flashes, or sheets of rainbow colors. We offer beautiful solid white Australian opal jewelry.

Jelly or Water Opal – colorless and transparent with little or no play of color.

Crystal Opal – Crystal Opal is transparent or extremely translucent and display a variety of colors. Crystal opal is clear enough to see through against a light surface but when viewed on a dark surface the colors really come to life.

Boulder Opal – Boulder opal is a naturally formed solid opal which consists of a fine layer of opal that has been deposited by nature on and in the fissures of ironstone base rock.

Fire Opal – Transparent or translucent opal with orange or red body color. It can also have yellow or brown body color. The opal may or may not display fire. This opal got its name from the typical color of the gem, not from displaying fire. Fire opals are also commonly known as Mexican opals because Mexico is a major source of this type. Fire opal with a red body color is also known as cherry opal.

Opal Doublet – Doublet Opals consist of a layer or slice of precious natural opal (usually white or crystal) that is too thin to be set in jewelry on its own which has been bonded to a dark or black backing. The backing can be potch (non precious opal), black glass or ironstone boulder. These days most doublets are bonded to an ironstone backing thus forming a “boulder doublet”. The dark backing enhances the color and simulates high quality black opal. However because less opal material is required doublets cost much less.

Opal Triplet – A triplet is essentially a doublet capped by clear quartz cap. The cap adds additional thickness to the gem, prevents damage in setting, and protects the actual opal from wear. The cap also acts as a magnifying glass, enlarging the color play and giving more of the appearance of fine black opal.

Triplets range from souvenir quality to gem quality with the best specimens showing the brilliant colors of fine black opal. However because only a thin slice of opal is used the cost is much lower. If you like the vibrant flashes on black, they are the affordable alternative to the $ 10,000 per carat Black Opal.

For use in rings, triplets are far superior to solid opals, because the quartz cap adds strength and hardness to the otherwise fragile opal. Our Australian black opal triplet rings and Men’s / unisex Australian black opal triplet rings allow you to enjoy the look of precious black opal at a fraction of the cost and with greater durability than solid black opals.

We also offer Australian black opal triplet pendants in 14kt gold, gold-filled, and sterling silver, as well as set into earrings. Solid opal is more suitable for pedants, pins, and earrings. Doublets and triplets do not tend to craze (crazing is when an opal spontaneously develops fine internal cracks as the opal losses water from its structure) as do many solid opals.

Mosaic Opal – A mosaic opal consists of tightly fitted, irregular pieces of opal, carefully fitted to create a brilliant mosaic. This allows smaller, colorful chips of opal to be utilized rather than discarded. See our Mosaic Opal Jewelry, now on a separate page.

Synthetic Opal – An opal created in a laboratory setting that has essentially the same physical, optical, and chemical properties as natural opal.

Simulated Opal – An opal created in a laboratory setting that has the same optical, properties as natural opal but is not physically or chemically the same.

Gilson® Created Opal – Currently the world’s finest laboratory grown opal, which most in the industry accept as synthetic. Some argue that it too is a simulant since it contains no water as natural opals do. Other than not containing water, Gilson Created opals have all the properties of natural opal. Invented in 1974 by Pierre Gilson Sr., these opals are not inexpensive and require a year or more to grow. The Gilson Created Opal, due to lack of water, does not tend to crack and craze as does mined opal does when it loses its water due to extreme temperature changes or other drying conditions. We offer striking Gilson® Created Opal Jewelry

Polymer-impregnated Opal – The process of created these opals begins by duplicating the first steps of the more expensive Gilson® Opal. A porous, very colorful opal is easily formed. Gilson goes to great trouble to fill the gaps with more silica, thus pure opal.

Manufacturers of polymer-impregnated opals take a shortcut and produce a product that is not 100% opal. They take the porous material and fill the holes with resin (epoxy glue). The resin gives the gemstone strength and durability. There is currently much debate in the field whether these are synthetic or simulated opal.

These opals consist of 70 – 90% silica (opal) and 10 – 30% resin. Whatever the final classification of gems of this nature they are beautiful, cost effective, and exhibit fire play resembling the finest opal. We do offer polymer-impregnated opal jewelry for those looking for a great deal of fire play at a low price.

Lab Grown or Lab Created Opal – Unless Gilson® is specifically mentioned, these terms generally refer to polymer-impregnated opals which are 70-90% silica (from which natural opal is formed) and 10-30% resin. See above for explanation of polymer-impregnated opals.