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Australian Opals

Know What You're Buying

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Shopping for Australian opals in Sydney

Shopping for Australian opals in Sydney

Photo courtesy of Tourism New South Wales

Australian opals are extremely popular with visitors to Australia. Not only are they souvenirs of this vast land but they also are gemstones of value.

You can buy them as rings, earrings, pendants, brooches, tieclips and other types of personal jewelry, or as loose and even uncut gemstones.

It's important to know the different types of Australian opal so one is not misled into paying excessively for stones of inferior quality.

Your guide to Australian opals

Black opals are the rarest and most valuable of all Australian opals. They are solid and generally found as a bar or bars of various colors in a dark (black, blue, brown or grey) body. Some may have a complete rainbow of colors while others could have deep blue-green hues.

Boulder opals are found in many forms and colors with smooth or uneven surfaces. The opal occurs as a solid piece on top of the ironstone or showing as flashing flecks of color in the ironstone.

Light opals show a full range of colors, swirls and flashes in a background of white or light blue.

Doublets are made of thin slices of quality opal glued to a black backing of potch, glass or ironstone. They thus resemble the natural black opal or boulder opal.

Triplets are made of three pieces much like a sandwich. A flat thin slice of precious opal is glued on to a darkened common opal, glass or porcelain. A dome of clear quartz crystal is then cemented to the precious opal with a clear resin. A doublet opal, which has more opal content, is more valuable than a triplet.

Common opals are of non-gem quality and may comprise several varieties. Most are opaque and none show "plays of color."

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