A Short Guide to Buying Opals


When purchasing an opal there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If the price is “too good to be true” it probably is!  Quality opal is rare and expensive to find and this is reflected by the price.
  • Buy from a reputable dealer who guarantees their products.
  • Ask whether the opal is Solid Opal, (Boulder Opal, Black Opal, White or Crystal Opal), opal doublet, opal triplet, synthetic opal or imitation.
  • If buying an unset opal make sure that it does not have any major flaws (major cracks) that may cause the opal to break when setting. A lot of opal have minor inclusions or imperfections that do not detract from the soundness of the opal; they are however somewhat cheaper than a perfect opal. If you don’t mind a little spot here or there it may be a good way to acquire a lovely coloured opal at a lower price.
  • Ask about the origin of the opal.  Australian sedimentary opal  commercially produced in Australian is of a sedimentary origin and seems to be far more stable and durable than from other opals deposits around the world.
  • Be aware of volcanic opal. Some opals from volcanic origin around the world may discolour or crack over time and are of less value than opal from well known locations. Although extremely beautiful at times this volcanic opal is not as suitable for jewellery making and is extremely heat sensitive.
  • Synthetic opals (so called) are mostly produced these days from microscopic polymer spheres fused together and are a fantastic imitation of the real thing. However these polymer opals are formed from plastics and are very easily scratched and lose their shine.
  • “Gilson” synthetic opal has the same chemical composition as natural opal and is expensive to produce; this is not as cheap and nasty as the polymer opal imitations. It is generally identified by its classic “Lizard Skin” effect in the colour pattern.