Sue's guide to opal buying 1. Knowing the difference between Australian natural solid opals and man-made opals

Sue's guide to opal buying 1. Knowing the difference between Australian natural solid opals and man-made opals

Do you love opal, but you are unsure of where to start or what to buy? That’s ok, we have got you. The first step in finding your perfect opal is to identify what sort of opal you are interested in. You will have four different options:

  1. Natural solid opals *
  2. Man-made doublets
  3. Man-made triplets and
  4. Man-made synthetic opals.**

Above we have provided a quick illustrated guide to help you identify the difference between each different type.

*Here at Broken River Mining, we ONLY mine, cut and sell natural solid Australian Boulder opals. We show photos and videos of the side view of each of our boulder opals on our website to demonstrate that they are natural solid opals.

** Some synthetic opal can be difficult to identify. Typically their colours are very bright and their patterns are ‘too perfect’ and ordered. If you are ever unsure about what sort of opal you have, please consult a gemmologist or an opal expert.

If you are considering a doublet or triplet, it is also import to note a few additional things:

  • Some dealers may still refer to doublet or triplets as "natural" opals because they have natural opal in them - so be very careful!
  • The doublets and triplets are glued together and if exposed to water over time the glue can lift and the doublet or triplet can become colourless. (In contrast, natural solid boulder opals can get wet without any problems.)
  • Doublets and triplets can be a good option because they should be much cheaper and can be calibrated easily.
  • It is sometimes very hard to tell the difference between natural solid opals and doublets once they have been set because you can no longer see the sides - so buyers beware. Ask to see a photo or video of the opal unset, if you are in the market for opal jewellery and want confirmation it is a natural solid opal. It should make a big difference in the price.
  • To help show your opal is not man-made, we recommend keeping the back of your setting open because this can help identify the host rock. Most doublets set into jewellery will have the backs closed.

So in summary - no matter what your preferences are - always remember to explicitly ask what type of opal you are purchasing. It makes a big difference not only to the price (man-made are cheaper), but in how you set and wear them.