Precious Opals

Saturday, 2 July 2022
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Precious Opal

Precious Opals

The main distinguishing feature of Precious Opals is their ability to show the “Play of Colour” or fire within the opal. So what is it in precious opals that causes this phenomena and makes them so attractive and desirable. Opals are derived from Silica and water and it is the way the tiny spherical shapes that make up the gemstone are arranged within it. In a common opal the spheres are disorganised and uneven, whereas in a Precious Opal they are all the same sized and organised neatly in a grid pattern. The Play of Colour can be explained as the silica spheres dissecting the light as it passes through the opal and turning it into many if not all the colours of the rainbow. Most Precious Opals will show a least three colours.

When opals are formed other trace elements can be included in the process and they will often give the opal a new background colour or body tone such as white, black, blue and yellow but other colours are also possible.

Some types of Precious Opals

Boulder Opal

As previously mentioned not all opals demonstrate every colour through the “Play of Colour”. Boulder opals are the exception and there range of colours includes all seven colours of the rainbow. They are mined in Queensland Australia.

Black Opal

As the name suggests, precious black opal has a black body tone. The stone has weak opalescence if any at all, but stunning colors.

The black base of precious black opal allows the flashes of color play to shine even more brightly. Lightning Ridge, Australia, is the primary source of this exclusive variety.

Crystal Opal

Crystal opal’s name is based on its translucence, as some light can pass through this variety. In fact, crystal opal’s translucence creates play-of-color on the surface of the stone and inside it.

If you shine a light through the gem, it looks like jelly, which has led some to call it “jelly opal.” The base tones are numerous, with blue, yellow, white, and even black crystal hues.

Matrix Opal

Matrix opal, sometimes referred to as “Type 3 opal,” covers a group of opals with unique color play. Unlike other opals which show the play of color across the surface of the stone, matrix opal’s play-of-color occurs throughout the entire stone.

Mined all over the world, matrix opal is found combined with host rock. Common host rocks include ironstone, limestone, sandstone, rhyolite, and basalt.

Patterned Precious Opals

Play-of-color can show up in distinct opal patterns. Some patterns go by specific names and become that opal variety’s nickname.

Here are the most notable patterns:

Pinfire. Pinfire, or pinpoint, describes a color play pattern in small, concentrated areas throughout the opal. The pattern resembles a peppering of colors.

Pinfire opal pattern

Flame. Flame opal’s play-of-color is an explosive display of red bands and streaks that look like flames burning through the surface of the stone. The flames come in when you turn the stone in your hand, as the color play flashes and flickers like candlelight.

Flame opal

Harlequin. The most sought-after variety, harlequin-patterned opals have a repeating pattern of rectangles and diamond shapes. The mosaic design can vary, with over 12 specific designs carrying their own nicknames.

Author Bio.

Jill Hansen runs Anastasia’s Of Broome and is a highly recognised expert in both the fields of South Sea Pearls and Diamonds. Jill trained in seeding pearls in the Cook Islands by Japanese Pearl Technicians, and established a wholesale pearl business selling pearls all over the world. She pioneered the combination of pearls and diamonds to create Lust™ Pearls, a unique fusion of these two beautiful gemstones. Jill holds the prestigious recognition of being an Antwerp Diamond Broker for selecting and sourcing Diamonds direct from the diamond capital of the world, Antwerp. She is a diamond expert and is happy to use and impart her knowledge to help customers make informed decisions.


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