Opal Jewelry - Article

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky
.” - Wordsworth

Well then how would it feel to hold a rainbow in one’s hands and see its brilliant facets in the truest of colors? For centuries, Opals have been looked upon as jewels that warded off evil and ill health. It has the distinction of being Australia’s official gemstone as well as the State gem (black opal) for Nevada. In a myriad of colors, the opal is found in the natural state and is also created artificially. Being the birth stone for the month of October, it is used extensively for making jewelry of all kind, be it rings, bracelets, pendants, earrings, brooches, cufflinks and belt buckles. The Opal has historical significance, being used as the crown jewels of France and also being held as a symbol of purity by the Romans. It is the brilliant multi-hue of the opal that has given birth to the word “opalescence”.

Before investing in any opal jewelry, it would be a good idea to understand which different kinds of gems are available in the market, what to look for, how to distinguish a natural opal from a synthetic opal (you don’t want to end up paying more for an artificial stone!) and whether the jewelry vendor be giving you an opal certification about the carat, weight etc. of the product.

In the natural state, opals are found in different varieties; black, white, boulder, crystal, fire and matrix. Black opals are a rarity and are therefore on the more expensive side. The exquisite stone has a dark body tone. Legend has it that Black opals are good for health and worn close to the heart, especially in the form of embedded gold jewelry ward off all evil. Many jewelry stores also offer semi- black opals that have a smoky grey color. White opals have a milky white tone and being easily available are mostly cheaper than other kinds of opal. Native to Queensland, Boulder opals are slightly less expensive than black opals and have an ironstone base. Crystal opals may be any of the above kind of opals, varying between transparent and translucent. Fire Opals, as the name suggests, have a distinctive fiery red hue ranging from red to orange. They are rare gems and are extremely valuable. The Mexican fire Opal for one is one of the most sought after opals. Another type of Opal used extensively in jewelry production is The Yowah Nut Opal. Mined in western Queensland, this unique opal consisting of deposits of opals in ironstone, can be polished to an amazing brilliance and is perfect for designer jewelry. Matrix Opals are light in color, but after being treated with chemicals, look similar to Black Opals. Doublets and triplets are also available in stores. These are essentially layers of Opal joined together at a common base, mostly ironstone and would thus qualify as semi- manmade.


While purchasing opal jewelry, spend time examining the color of the stone. The brightness of the Opal would be a major indicator towards how expensive it would be. Brightness does not refer to the base color of the stone, but the light it emits, red being the most defining. Other things to keep in mind would be the pattern, base color, shape and cut, size and faults. Broader patterns are preferred to narrow lines. As far as the base color goes, the blacker the stone, the more expensive it would be. Opals are measured in carats and can sometimes command a price higher than even diamonds! Lesser the faults or imperfections, more would be the value of the Opal. However, in the case of Boulder Opals, this fact is not taken into account as the ironstone base leads to the creation of unique designs that add to its value rather than deduct from its appearance. Synthetic Opals would have brighter colors and larger patches in comparison to natural stones. Viewed under the microscope, they have a typical snakeskin pattern. Doublets or triplets tend to get cloudy over time if worn in water, as this allows for the glue to wear out and water to seep in.

Keeping these few tips in mind, you can surely go ahead and buy your magical piece of rainbow, in the colors that are the most pleasing to your eye.

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