Beautiful Australian Opals

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About Opal
Getting Started
Base Color
Consistency and Directionality
Cut, Inclusions and Weight
Fire Color
Doublets and Tripletts
Fire Pattern
Glossay of Terms
Natural, Synthetic, Etc
Myths and Legends
Opal Books
Opal Care
Opal Evaluation
Opal Pricing
Some Large and Famous Opals
Types of Opals

Synthetic, Natural, Simulated or Dyed

Some opals have been created in a laboratory. These synthetic or cultured opals are often difficult to identify without laboratory tests. But there are some clues. First, if the stone has an extraordinarily bright play of color, it may be a synthetic. Next look at the pattern. Most synthetics have an overly regular pattern that looks too consistent to be natural. They also have a roundish globular (snakeskin) pattern. From the side, high domed stones will frequently look like the play of color is in columns going from the top to the bottom of the stone. Often they feel a little light, too. None of these characteristics prove that the stone is a synthetic, but taken in combination they should make you very suspicious.

The Gilson Company, which produces most synthetic (or created) opals , has changed its process to produce more natural patterns. The snakeskin pattern is gone. This has made it increasingly difficult to determine when a stone is a synthetic by visual inspection.

Simulated or Imitations

The distinction between an imitation and a synthetic is one of chemistry. If a man-made stone has the chemical makeup of its natural counterpart, it is called synthetic. If not, it is called an imitation or simulated.

Another imitation is a stone made in Hong Kong and sold under the trade name Opalite. It is as light as a feather, it was obviously very soft and would not stand up in fine jewelry, but is used in costume jewelry.

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