Jewellery Stories
By Niki Bruce
27 Apr 2020

Top 3 things to know about buying the best Opal

Top 3 things to know about buying an Opal NECKLACE

‘The Path of Enlightenment’ necklace contains 180 magnificent opals from Lightning Ridge, Australia, a famous opal producing area. IMAGE: Courtesy Cody Opal via GIA.com

Opal is a unique gemstone as it beautifully blends different vibrant colours together. This versatility led the Romans to describe it as the most potent and valuable of all gems. This interplay of shades inspired the Bedouins to believe that Opals were the result of thunderstorms and lightning. Australia has been the principal source of Opals since commercial mining of Opal started during the 1890s. 

What is an Opal? 

The birthstone for the month of October, Opal can be defined as an exquisite ‘amorphous hydrated’ mineraloid silica. This unstructured quality, unlike other crystalline silica forms, has led Opal to be classed as mineraloid and not as a mineral. An Opal holds as much as 20% water within its silica structure. 

Top 3 things to know about buying an Opal BLACK

This black opal exhibits exceptional play-of-colour. IMAGE: Courtesy Cody Opal via GIA.com

Opal is famed for its extraordinary display of variegated colours known as ‘play-of-colour’. Among the twin groupings of ‘common’ and ‘precious’, only the best Opals reveal the brilliant range of colours. With multiple sub-microscopic spheres assembled in a grid pattern within the Opal, results in diffracting lightwaves splitting into spectral colours. 

Different types of Opals

Though gemstone specialists around the world classify Opals into different classes, the primary types include five. In Light or White Opal, the transference of colour happens against a grey or white background whereas in a Black Opal, the colour change takes place against a darker background. The Fire Opal, also called ‘Mexican Opal’, mostly does not display such scintillating colours and instead, has a body colour varying from red, brown, orange or yellow. 

Top 3 things to know about buying an Opal CRYSTAL

This fine-quality light opal is from Mintabie, South Australia. Almost all of its spectral colours are visible from a variety of viewing angles. IMAGE: Courtesy Cody Opal via GIA.com

Just like the name suggests, the Boulder Opal shines within its adjoining rock formation. Boulder Opal exhibits these dazzling shades alongside a dark and light setting. Breathtaking colour shift can be witnessed in Water or Crystal Opal where these spectral colours smoulder against a lucid backdrop. 

Top 3 things to know about buying an Opal BOULDER

The rough specimen is a thin seam of boulder opal on sandstone host rock. The 3.47-carat boulder opal tablet was cut from a similar piece of rough. IMAGE: GIA.com

Known as the ‘eye stone’, the Opal is believed to have healing, metaphysical characteristics that promote tranquillity while channelling energies towards a more affirmative thought process. 

Throughout history, the Opal has been thought to be the luckiest and most magical gemstone because of all the colours it shows; it was even thought to be able to preserve the life and colour of blonde hair!

How to choose the best Opal

  • Every Opal is distinctively different from the other. The magnificent variegation in an Opal displays all the colours of the rainbow. The unique assortment of silica spheres within an Opal forms an incredible range of colours and patterns. The background colour of the Opal is also a determinant of its quality. 
  • The Opal more often than not will be cut into asymmetrical shapes that best exhibit the colour play to the extent possible. 
  • Clarity is extremely variable in an Opal as different levels are observed in different types. Inclusions and transparency also decide the quality of the best Opal. 
  • The relative lower density of an Opal makes it comfortable to wear even in larger sizes. Opal is available in a wide array of shapes and sizes. 

How much does a good Opal cost?

Opals in the weight range of a half carat to one carat costs between US$500 and US$1,500. However, a fine Black Opal weighing anywhere between five and 10 carats can be as expensive as US$50,000.

Top 3 things to know about buying an Opal LIGHT HAND

This exceptional light opal is from South Australia’s Coober Pedy opal fields. IMAGE: Courtesy Cody Opal via GIA.com

This astounding price can be attributed to the rarity and exceptional beauty of a superior Opal. Australian specimens rank particularly high on the price scale. 

To have your own bespoke piece of jewellery either remade, or created new, call us at +65 6733 4100, visit our atelier at #05-04 International Building, 360 Orchard Road, Singapore 238869; or email us on bespoke@thejewelbox.com.

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