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Black opals are the most rare and at the same time the most beautiful of all types of opals. If the opal is “Queen of Gems” than the black opal is certainly “King of Queens”. No wonder black opals are also the most expensive and sought after type of opals. For people buying opals as a good, solid, long term investment, black opals are definitively the ones to go for.
Their unique, elegant and most of the times breathtaking appearance comes from their dark body color. The color can range from dark grey to deep black and it is a direct result of carbon and iron oxide trace elements which are naturally incorporated into black opal’s structure. All other types of opals are missing these components. Dark background helps the rest of the colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue) to stand out and show their beauty in full glory.
Doublets and triplets can replicate that effect to some extent but as they are human made and contain only a small amount of solid opal their value is usually just a tiny proportion of the value of solid black opals.
This type of opals are not as known and valued as black opals but their stunning appearance and in many cases dramatic and mind blowing combination of vibrant colors makes boulder opals ultimate eye catchers and puts them on the list as a second most valuable and sought after type of opals.
Boulder opals are formed in cracks of ironstone boulders. They are found only in the state of Queensland, Australia.
Because boulder opals are very thin they have to be cut out together with the ironstone on the back. This attachment gives them dark body tone and appearance very similar to black opals.
At a first glance boulder opals also might be mistaken for a doublet. The main difference is that the backing on boulder opals is completely natural.
White opals are much more common than both of the above mentioned, black and boulder opals. Their body tone is white or very light and that causes the rest of the colors to appear less bright. This is certainly the biggest disadvantage of white opals and it drives down their value in comparison to their dark toned body cousins.
However, white opals can still look absolutely marvellous. They mostly appear to people who prefer more discreet display of color.
If you are shopping on a smaller budget and your preference is a solid opal gemstone rather than doublet or triplet, white opals are definitively a way to go.
Crystal opal is a term used in relation to any type of opal with a transparent or semi transparent body. They display their colors in the same way as the other types of opals but the transparency of their body gives them a different and unique appearance that many people find more appealing.
Good quality crystal opal is not as valuable as black opal but its price is usually very close to the price of boulder opals.
Synthetic opals are artificially made and although their structure is very similar to the structure of precious opals, their value is (from obvious reasons) much less than the value of the real “thing”.
Synthetic opals usually display a very distinctive snakeskin pattern and they show brighter colors than natural opals. The spots of color are larger but they interact with light in a very similar way to natural opals.
They also contain a fair amount of silica (usually around 70-75%) which is impregnated with plastic.
Synthetic opals look good and they might appeal to some people but they can never replicate the magnificent, irregular and heart warming display of color that only mother nature can create.
Types of Opals