How to Spot Genuine Opals: Your Guide

To tell if opal is real, examine it for its play of color and look for inclusions that are indicative of a natural stone. Opals that lack play of color or have a repeating pattern may be synthetic or man-made.

Opals are a beautiful and mesmerizing gemstone that have captivated people for centuries. They are unique in that they display a play of color, which is a rainbow-like effect caused by the diffraction of light. However, not all opals are created equal.

There are many synthetic or man-made opals in the market, and it can be difficult to distinguish between them and natural opals. Therefore, in this article, we’ll look at some ways to tell if opal is real and how to avoid buying fake ones.

How to Spot Genuine Opals: Your Guide


Understanding Opals

Opals have always been a prized gemstone, renowned for their unique and mesmerizing beauty. They vary in color and quality, but how can you be sure if the opal you’re looking at is real or fake? Understanding opals is crucial in identifying the real ones, so let’s take a deep dive into everything you need to know!

What Are Opals?

  • Opals are a type of gemstone that are formed from silica-rich liquids that have seeped into rock crevices and, in some cases, fossils.
  • They come in a variety of colors, including white, black, and boulder opals, as well as pink, purple, blue, and even multi-colored hues.
  • Opals are widely used in jewelry, and are often treasured for their stunning iridescence, which gives it a unique fiery glow known as opalescence.

Different Types Of Opals:

  • Black opals – these opals have a dark base tone, and the colors appear more vibrant and brighter compared to other opals.
  • White opals – these opals have a milky white or light grey base, with a paler iridescent color play.
  • Fire opals – these have a transparent to translucent orange, yellow or red background color, which sparkles with a vibrant fire or a “play-of-color”.
  • Boulder opals – these opals are cut with the host ironstone left on the back and sides of the stone in a natural, raw way.

Characteristics Of Natural Opals:

  • An authentic opal will display a spectral play of color, which is visible when the stone is moved.
  • Genuine opals also tend to have dimmer colors than synthetic ones, and may display small bubbles and inclusions.
  • Authentic opals are usually softer than synthetic versions, and often have crazing – visible cracks – on their surface.
  • Natural opals are often found in rocks and are not perfectly round.

Understanding the different types of opals and the characteristics of natural ones is essential when you’re in the market for an opal. Make sure to follow these tips to determine if the opal is real or fake. Happy opal hunting!

Common Opal Imitations

Opals have been highly regarded throughout history for their beauty and unique characteristics. However, with their increasing popularity, the market has been flooded with fake opals that can be mistaken for the real thing. It can be challenging to differentiate real opals from imitations, especially for those without prior experience.

We will discuss the common opal imitations and how to spot them.

Synthetic Opals

Synthetic opals are lab-created, and they closely resemble natural opals in appearance. However, they lack the unique structural patterns that natural opals possess. Here are some key points to keep in mind when identifying synthetic opals:

  • Synthetic opals have a more uniform pattern compared to natural opals.
  • The colors in synthetic opals are more uniform and evenly distributed.
  • Synthetic opals lack the fire and brilliance that natural opals possess.
  • Synthetic opals are less valuable than natural opals.

Imitation Opals

Imitation opals are made from various materials and are meant to mimic the look of natural opals. Here are some common materials used to create imitation opals:

  • White opals: Made from plastic or resin.
  • Fire opals: Made from glass or plastic.
  • Black opals: Made from dyed glass or black plastic.

When trying to identify imitation opals, pay attention to the following characteristics:

  • Imitation opals lack the fire and brilliance that natural opals possess.
  • The colors and patterns in imitation opals can look too perfect or uniform.
  • Imitation opals may have a plastic-like appearance.

Glass Opals

Glass opals are made from glass and are meant to mimic the appearance of natural opals. These opals are challenging to identify, but here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Glass opals lack the play of color that natural opals possess.
  • The patterns in glass opals can appear too perfect and symmetrical.
  • Glass opals have a glassy luster that differs from the waxy luster of natural opals.

Plastic Opals

Plastic opals are synthetic opals made from plastic or resin. Here are some key points to keep in mind when trying to identify plastic opals:

  • Plastic opals have a more uniform pattern compared to natural opals.
  • The colors in plastic opals are more uniform and evenly distributed.
  • Plastic opals lack the fire and brilliance that natural opals possess.

Identifying opal imitations can be a tricky business. However, with a little knowledge and awareness, it is possible to tell the difference between real and fake opals. Always purchase from a reputable dealer and ensure that the seller guarantees the opal’s authenticity.

How To Tell If An Opal Is Real Or Fake

Opals are a stunning gemstone that catch the eye with their mesmerizing colors that seem to dance and shift in the light. But with fake opals being sold online and in stores, it’s crucial to know how to spot a genuine stone before buying.

We’ll be examining the key factors that determine whether an opal is real or fake, with a special focus on color play, using a loupe, identifying natural inclusions, and checking density and weight.

Examining The Color Play

The most crucial aspect to consider when identifying a real opal is its color play. The color play is the way that the opal’s colors seem to move and shift as it’s viewed from different angles. Here are the key things to look for:

  • Look for a variety of colors: Genuine opals display a range of colors, such as red, orange, green, blue, and pink. If the stone only displays one or two colors, it’s likely a fake.
  • Check the color patterns: Real opals have a random and unique pattern, with no visible lines. If the stone has a visible pattern or lines, it’s probably a manufactured fake opal.
  • Observe the intensity of the colors: A genuine stone’s colors appear vivid and intense, with sharp contrasts between them. If the colors appear dull or opaque, it’s probably fake.

Identifying Genuine Opals With A Loupe

A loupe is a small magnifying glass that can help you identify natural opals. Here are the key things to look for:

  • Check for cracks: Natural opals can have cracks or marks, but fake stones usually do not.
  • Look for uniformity: If the color play seems to be too uniform, it’s likely a fake opal.
  • Observe the depth of the colors: Real opals have a depth to their colors that fake opals often lack.

Looking For Natural Inclusions

Another way to determine if an opal is fake or not is to look for natural inclusions. These are small cracks, bubbles, or other inclusions within the stone that occur naturally. Here are the key things to look for:

  • Look at the edges: Real opals have natural inclusions along the edges of the stone.
  • Check for uniformity: Inclusions on natural opals are random and scattered, while fake ones are often too uniformed.

Checking Opal Density And Weight

Density and weight can also help determine if an opal is real or fake. Genuine opals are denser and heavier than synthetic ones. Here are the key things to look for:

  • Check the weight: You can use a small scale to weigh the stone and compare it to known weights of genuine opals.
  • Test the density: You can use a glass of water and see if the stone sinks or floats. Genuine opals are heavier and denser than water, so they should sink.

When it comes to identifying whether an opal is real or fake, it’s essential to examine the color play, use a loupe, look for natural inclusions, and check its density and weight. By following these steps, you’ll be able to determine whether the opal you’re considering buying is natural or synthetic.

Where To Buy Genuine Opals

Opals are one of the most captivating gemstones, enjoyed by millions worldwide. Its rainbow iridescence sets it apart from other stones and makes it a favorite for jewelry. However, with the increasing demand, it’s not uncommon to come across fake or synthetic opals in the market.

In this section, we’ll explore the various ways to identify genuine opals and where to buy them without getting ripped off.

Popular Gemstone Retailers

Gemstone retailers are known for their high-quality, trustworthy, and genuine stones, making them a perfect destination to buy opals. Popular gemstone retailers like blue nile, james allen, tiffany & co. , and macy’s offer genuine opals worth the investment. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • Look for established and trusted retailers in the market.
  • Check if the retailer provides certificates of authenticity.
  • Compare prices with other retailers to avoid overpaying.

Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces like amazon, ebay, and etsy offer a wide range of opals at different price points. However, due to the growing number of scams and fake listings, it’s best to tread with caution while buying opals online. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Check the seller’s reviews and rating before making a purchase.
  • Ask the seller questions about the authenticity and origin of the gem.
  • Look for images of the opal in various lighting conditions.

Auction Houses And Antique Shops

Auction houses and antique shops offer opals that are unique and have an interesting history. However, these places require a more knowledgeable approach while purchasing opals. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Attend the auctions and inspect the stone in person.
  • Learn about the provenance of the opal before purchasing.
  • Consult with a gemologist to avoid overpaying or purchasing a fake opal.

Recommendations From Gemologists

Gemologists are experts in the field of gemstones and offer some of the most reliable recommendations when it comes to buying opals. Here are some tips:

  • Consult with a gemologist for recommendations on genuine opal dealers.
  • Get the gemologist’s opinion before making a purchase.
  • Look for gemologists’ contact information on their websites or relevant forums.

Opals are precious gems that need proper attention while purchasing. Use these tips and approaches mentioned above to ensure that you purchase genuine opals that are worth the investment.

Caring For Your Opals

Opals are stunning and unique gemstones that have been cherished for centuries. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, making them highly sought after in the jewelry industry. However, it’s essential to care for your opals properly to ensure they last a lifetime.

We’ll explore some tips on how to tell if opal is real and focus on the most crucial aspect – caring for your opals. Let’s get started!

Cleaning And Storing Opals

Opals are delicate gemstones, and they require gentle handling to keep their luster. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Clean your opals with a soft cloth or a brush that has soft bristles.
  • Avoid using any harsh chemicals, including jewelry cleaners, solvents, and detergents.
  • Never use an ultrasonic cleaner or steam cleaning method to clean your opals.
  • Store opals in a soft cloth or a pouch to protect them from scratching or rubbing against other jewelry pieces.
  • Keep opals away from direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, and humidity.

Avoiding Exposure To Harsh Chemicals

Opals are sensitive to chemicals, and they can fade or lose their luster if exposed to the wrong substances. Here are some important factors to consider:

  • Avoid wearing opals when swimming in the pool or hot tub, as chlorine can damage them.
  • Protect your opals from hairspray, perfume, and cosmetics, as they can cause discoloration or damage to the stone.
  • Don’t expose opals to household cleaning agents or bleach, as they can damage the stone.

Preventing Damage To Your Opals

Opals are not as durable as other gemstones, and they require careful handling. Here are some important tips to follow:

  • Remove opal jewelry when engaging in physical activities or sports to avoid damaging the stone.
  • Be mindful of the settings of your opals as it could damage accidentally.
  • Never subject opals to mechanical stress.
  • Avoid wearing opals when doing manual labor, gardening, or activities that involve harsh surfaces or the ground.

The Importance Of Professional Maintenance

Opals require professional maintenance to maintain their beauty and prolong their lifespan. Here are some crucial points to remember:

  • Get your opals checked and professionally cleaned by experts at least once a year.
  • Consult with a professional jeweler if your opals need re-polishing or resetting.
  • Only take your opals to reputable jewelers or gemologists with experience in handling opals.

Caring for your opals requires gentle handling and proper maintenance. Keep your opals away from harsh chemicals, protect them from physical stress, and have them checked by professionals regularly. By following these simple tips, you can ensure your opals retain their luster and beauty for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions Of How To Tell If Opal Is Real

How Can You Tell If An Opal Is Real?

One of the easiest ways to tell if an opal is real is to examine its color pattern under a light source. A genuine opal will reflect an array of colors, while a fake one will appear dull and only reflect one or two colors.

The weight of the opal also plays a role; genuine opals are heavier than their imitations.

What Is The Difference Between A Real Opal And A Synthetic One?

A natural opal is formed over thousands of years, while a synthetic one is created in a lab in a matter of days. Synthetic opals usually lack the unique characteristics and depth of color that natural opals have, making it easy to differentiate between the two.

Additionally, synthetic opals are typically cheaper than natural ones.

What Is An Opal Doublet Or Triplet?

An opal doublet is made by gluing a thin slice of natural opal to a black backing, while an opal triplet consists of three layers: a thin slice of natural opal, a darker backing material, and a clear protective layer.

These are less valuable than solid opals, but can be more affordable options for those who want the look of a natural opal without paying the high price.

What Is The Best Way To Care For A Real Opal?

Opals require gentle cleaning and storage. To clean, simply use a soft cloth, mild soap, and lukewarm water. Avoid using harsh chemicals or ultrasonic cleaners that can damage the stone. When not being worn, keep the opal stored in a soft pouch or cloth to protect it from scratches and natural oils from the skin.


As we conclude this article, we hope that you have gained a better understanding of opals and how to tell if they are real. Remember the key features to look out for such as the play of color, the transparency, and the density of the stone.

It is also important to note that opals come in different varieties and origins, which affect their value and authenticity. If you are unsure about the authenticity of an opal, it is always best to seek the help of a professional gemologist to avoid being misled.

By following these guidelines, you can confidently identify the authenticity of an opal and appreciate its beauty and rarity. So next time you come across an opal, put your knowledge to the test and see if you can spot the real deal.

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