Unveiling the Enchanting World of Opals: A Journey Through the Types of Opals

Monday, 2 October 2023
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Types of Opals

Unveiling the Enchanting World of Opals: A Journey Through the Types of Opals

Opal Ring

Opals, often referred to as the “Queen of Gemstones,” are among the most captivating and mysterious gems found on Earth. Renowned for their mesmerizing play of colours and unique formations, opals have captured the hearts of gemstone enthusiasts and collectors for centuries. This article will take you on a fascinating journey through the various types of opals, shedding light on their distinct characteristics and the allure they hold for those who cherish their beauty.

Types of Opals

  1. Precious Opal

Precious opal, also known as “noble opal,” is the most sought-after type of opal. It is prized for its remarkable play of colouurs, which is a phenomenon caused by the diffraction of light through microscopic spheres of silica. This play of colours can include vibrant flashes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet, often appearing to dance across the surface of the gemstone. Precious opal can exhibit a wide range of base body colours, from milky white to black.

One of the most famous precious opals is the “Black Opal” from Lightning Ridge, Australia. These opals are characterized by their dark body tone, which enhances the intensity of their play of colors. Another well-known variety is the “Fire Opal,” which typically displays vivid red, orange, or yellow hues. Precious opals are often used in high-quality jewellery, including rings, necklaces, and earrings, due to their exceptional beauty and rarity.

  1. Common Opal

Common opal, in contrast to precious opal, lacks the captivating play of colors and is often opaque or translucent. These opals are more common and less valuable than their precious counterparts. Common opals can come in a wide range of colours, including white, gray, green, blue, and pink. They are appreciated for their soothing, pastel-like colours and are often used in decorative items, carvings, and cabochon-style jewellery.

A well-known variety of common opal is the “Peruvian Opal,” which is valued for its soft blue-green hues reminiscent of tropical waters. Common opals are often cut as cabochons to highlight their color and chatoyancy, a phenomenon where the stone exhibits a silky or wavy lustre.

3. Opalescent Precious Opal

Opalescent precious opal, sometimes called “milky opal” or “white opal,” is a variety that exhibits a pale, milky, or semi-translucent body with a subtle play of colours. These opals are cherished for their dreamy and ethereal appearance. Opalescent precious opals are often used as focal points in jewellery designs, where their unique beauty can shine without overpowering other gemstones or metals.

  1. Boulder Opal


Boulder opal is a remarkable variety known for its striking and contrasting appearance. These opals form within ironstone or sandstone matrix rocks, and their play of colours occurs within the cracks and crevices of the host rock. When cut and polished, boulder opals reveal a stunning interplay between the colourful opal and the earthy matrix. This creates a natural and rugged appearance, making each boulder opal unique.

The most famous source of boulder opals is Queensland, Australia. These opals are often used in one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces, where the natural matrix serves as a backdrop to the vibrant opal colours.

  1. Crystal Opal

Crystal opal, as the name suggests, is prized for its transparency and exceptional clarity. These opals are known for their vivid play of colours, which is especially brilliant due to the gem’s transparency. Crystal opals can have a nearly colourless or lightly coloured body, allowing the play of colours to be the star of the show. Their clarity and brilliance make them highly desirable for jewellelry, particularly in settings that allow light to pass through the gem.

  1. Jelly Opal

Jelly opal is a unique variety characterized by its translucent to semi-translucent appearance, resembling a fruit jelly. These opals often have a warm, honey-like colour and can exhibit a play of colours that adds depth and intrigue to their overall appearance. Jelly opals are sometimes used as centre stones in rings or pendants, where their warm and inviting colours can shine.

  1. Hyalite Opal

Hyalite opal, also known as “glass opal,” is distinct from other opals due to its glassy, colourless appearance. Unlike precious opal, hyalite opal does not display a play of colours. Instead, it is prized for its unique fluorescence properties. When exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, hyalite opal emits a vibrant green or blue glow, creating a captivating visual effect. Hyalite opals are often used in jewellery designs that incorporate UV lighting for a stunning, otherworldly appearance.

  1. Mexican Fire Opal

Mexican fire opal is a variety known for its fiery orange and red hues. Unlike precious opal, which displays a play of colours, Mexican fire opal’s beauty lies in its vibrant and intense body color. These opals are often cut into faceted gems to maximize their brilliance and colour. Mexican fire opals are commonly used in rings, earrings, and pendants, where their warm and fiery tones can create a striking contrast with other gemstones.

  1. Ethiopian Opal

Ethiopian opal is a relatively new addition to the world of opals, but it has quickly gained popularity for its vibrant play of colours and high transparency. These opals are found in nodules and can exhibit an exceptional range of colours, from fiery reds and oranges to cool blues and greens. Ethiopian opals are often used in jewellery, where their dazzling display of colours can capture the imagination.

In conclusion, the world of opals is a diverse and enchanting one, with each type of opal offering its own unique charm and allure. Whether you are drawn to the mesmerizing play of colours in precious opal, the rugged beauty of boulder opal, or the fiery intensity of Mexican fire opal, there is an opal variety to suit every taste. These gemstones continue to captivate and inspire jewellery designers, collectors, and enthusiasts worldwide, ensuring that the legacy of opals as the “Queen of Gemstones” endures for generations to come.

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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