Opal Gems, Understanding Terminology

Few gem lovers have not seen or heard of opal gemstones and yet, most would have fairly little knowledge about opal gemstones. Without background knowledge of a gem, encountering technical jargon can be confusing and even cause anxiety. For example, if we told you that you stupendour natural fire opal gem from Mexico is not 'precious' opal. you would most likely think that we were crazy. But the fact is that, fire opal and even the pastel green pink opals from Peru cannot be classified as precious opal gems. In recent years, you would have surely come across those amazing Ethopian opals. But you might never have heard that, most Ethopian opal gems are hydropane opals. So what exactly does hydropane mean, the word does seem to have some relation to water but, the complete explanation is not easy to comprehend.

In this report we will explain some often heard terms related to opal gemstones. There is not much of sales muscle in the report, so be prepared to gain some useful and valuable insight into the world of opal gems. Inspite of our commercial interest in gems and jewelry we are not afraid that, this information may scare opal buyers away. The truth is that, understanding a gemstone allows buyers to take good and sufficient care of their gemstones. This will obviously translate to longer and higher satisfaction too. Not many gem and jewelry providers would agree with our logic but, our interests have always been related to buyer education.

Most of us would recognize an emerald by it's color flashes and specks, this is also know as play-of-color. To quickly explain this phenomenon of play of color in opal gems, we should begin by telling you that opal is a type of hydrated silica. The silica in this gem are made of tiny spheres, them gem has around 6% to 10% moisture content. When the silica spheres in an opal gemstone are well arranged, they perform an important feat when light strikes the gem. The light is diffracted from these spheres and borken into the colors of the spectrum. These 'pieces' of colored light then bounce out of the stone and become visible to the human eye. The important thing is that, all opal gems do not have the color-play phenomenon. What is equally important is the fact that, some opal gems that do not show the play-of-color effect carry a significant price tag. Keep the above information in mind as we move ahead with our report.

Precious Opals: One of the most confusing opal terminology, this is one term that can cause both worry and anxiety among opal buyers. You would immediately wonder whether the opal you have is precious! The explanation is simple, opals that do not display the play of color effect are not classified as precious opals. The confusin begins because some gorgeous and valuable opal gems like fire opals and even the Peruvian pink opal gems, do not show the color flashes and color play. So just keep in mind that an opal would not be cheap or less valuable, if it is not meant to do the color flash dance. Look at the image of the white opal gemstone shown above. Now, this is one opal variety that should have some play of color, display. And if a white opal is just placid without that effect, it would not be worh much. On the other hand, the pastel pink natural opals mined in Peru were never meant to sing and dance. So this does not make it any less valuable or desirable.

Solid Opal: If the word solid was meant to imply that, the gem was hard and not gaseous or liquid, life would be much simpler. Unfortunately gem experts never seem to relish easy jargon and terminology. A solid opal is an opal gem that is formed of one single piece of natural opal. Opals that are assembled such as opal doublets and opal triplets, would not fall in the category of solid opals. An interesting opal that will also not be called a solid opal is the honduras opal. In this gemstone, you have small bits of natural opal embedded in a piece of natural rock. This is a natural occurence but, the opal content is not formed as one contiguous piece.

Honduras Opal: We briefly talked about this opal variety in the above paragraph but, here is some more detail. This gemstone would strictly speaking, not be an opal in the real sense. Basically you have an ordinary piece of dark rock, this is generally black in color. Within this rock are pits and gashes, where opal has naturally formed. The opal formations in the base rock are either so small or thin that, no attempt is made to separate the opal from the rock. The stone is cut and shaped along with the base rock and the small specks of opal, it is referred to as honduras opal. The debate on whether honduras opal can be classified as a precious opal, is not worth a discussion. Since the opal content in honduras opals is so very small as compared to the base rock, it should really not be called an opal at all!

Fire Opal: Many gem lovers expect the term 'fire' to refer to a vigirous play of color and color flashes display. The truth is that this, yellow to orange or reddish orange opal gem, does not show any play of color. At the same time, it is one of the opal varieties that commands a high price. While Mexico is tagged as the most preferred location for fire opal gems, Brazil and even Ethopia have entered the markets with their locally mined fire opal gemstones. This gem is named fire opal because, the color of the stone reminds you of a fire or flame. Fire opal can sometimes be found with a clarity and transparency that, no other opal variety can boast of. 

Assembled Opals: Most opal gemstone buyers would have heard of the terms, opal doublets and opal triplets. Both these gems are not composed of a single piece of natural opal, they would therefore not fall in the category of solid opals. In the case of an opal doublet, a dark base is glued to the base of a piece of natural opal. In the case of an opal triplet, a slice of natural opal is bonded between a transparent piece of white quartz or crystal (on top) and, a dark base on the bottom. While it is fair to leave these opals out of the list of solid opal gemstones, it is a fact that assembled opals exhibit a higher degree of toughness. The play of color in the opal is also, more dramatic when viewed against the dark base. In modern  times, synthetic glass or similar material is used to form the added components used in opal doublets or opal triplets.

The above information will make you more aware about various opal related terms. You will also rest easy after you have understood more about the opal gems you have purchased or plan to purchase in the future. Opal is a very popular gem, it is also a birthstone for the month of October. Lavish opal jewelry with diamonds and precious gems, are sold for thousands of dollars. And yet, sellers never care to educate buyers about the gemstone. We hope that this report has provided you with some utility value, pass the link to your friends if you are impressed with the content. 

Related Resources:

Claddagh Opal Rings   Mens Opal Ring   Opal Doublets   Fire Opal  Opal Rings