Beautiful Australian Opals

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About Opal
Getting Started
Base Color
Consistency and Directionality
Cut, Inclusions and Weight
Fire Color
Doublets and Tripletts
Fire Pattern
Glossay of Terms
Natural, Synthetic, Etc
Myths and Legends
Opal Books
Opal Care
Opal Evaluation
Opal Pricing
Some Large and Famous Opals
Types of Opals

Getting Started

A few facts and myths about that beautiful opal you have locked away in your jewel case. Firstly, it is a closely paled array of miliona of spherical particles of amorphous silica stacked in a three dimensional grating. Because of the special grating of the spheres, it is the only gemstone known to man that has the unique natural ability to diffract - that is to split white light or ordinary sunlight into all the beautiful colors of the rainbow.

Impurities play no part in creating the colors of the opal as is the case with many other gemstones. Color is created when light is split by voids that have been formed between the spheres. The size of the voids are critical to the angle at which the light is split hence the color produced. To produce color visible to our eyes, the spheres that form the voids must be no smaller than 1500 angstroms for the violet, indigo and blue colors, nor larger than 3500 angstroms for the orange and red.

When viewing a lovely opal the most critical factor is the relationship of the light source to your eyes. To see it at its sparkling best the light must be coming over your shoulder. If you are in a room using natural light always stand with your back to the window and if outdoors, stand with your back to the sun. Reverse these positions and you will be amazed at the change of quality and color. The same principle applies to most other forms of gems, hence the critical angel of light in the jewelers shop.

Good stable Australian opal has proved to be a sound investment over the past 25 years. It is one of the few gemstones that has continued to appreciate in value at a steady rate. This cannot be said for many other types of gems.

Australia has some 96% of the world's supply of commercial grade opal and suffers little of the problems that seem to apply to many forms of opal from other countries. This is due to the fact that it has been laid down under very special sedimentary conditions.

Gem opal is also somewhat of an enigma. True, it is the birthstone of October, but it is a little known and often misunderstood gem. Most jewelers have only a general knowledge of it which is understandable. After all, more than 90% of their gem business is diamonds and gold. The general public knows even less. They see the occasional white-based stone with a hint of color in a jewelry store and think that is it. It isn't! those are examples of the poorer quality, less colorful opals. Instead think of a vibrant red macaw flying through a rich green forest. It flashes bright red, blue and green colors as it weaves and bobs its way through the trees. Bright flashing colors that change as the stone moves are what a good opal is all about.

Buying Opal Purchasing a gemstone can be fraught with uncertainty. How do you know if it is a good gem? whom can you trust? How much should you pay? The answer is knowledge. Knowledge of what makes an opal beautiful, and knowledge of how this beauty translates into market value will allow you to buy with confidence.


Valuing Opal This is not an easy process. Judgment is required at every step and judgment is best honed by exposure to opal. As you gain knowledge the task of valuing opal will become easier.

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