How to Spot Real Opals: A Beginner’s Guide


    To tell if opal is real, examine its color play and confirm its hardness using the mohs scale. Opals between 5.5 to 6.5 mohs are likely genuine.

    Opals have been a popular gemstone for centuries because of their unique beauty. Unfortunately, some pieces of opal circulating in the market are actually imitations or synthetics. To avoid getting scammed, it’s crucial to know how to distinguish a real opal from a fake one.

    There are a few tests that can help you determine if an opal is authentic, including examining its color play and checking its hardness with the mohs scale. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of identifying a genuine opal, including some helpful tips on what to watch out for when shopping for opals.

    How to Spot Real Opals: A Beginner's Guide


    Understanding Opals: A Brief Overview

    Opal, known for its kaleidoscopic and mesmerizing beauty, is one of the most unique gemstones in the world. However, not all opals are created equal. Some are genuine, while others are synthetic or imitation. In this section, we will explore what opals are, the types of opals, and the importance of identifying real opals.

    What Are Opals?

    Opals are gemstones that are composed of silica, which is a type of mineral found in rocks and sedimentary deposits. They are made up of microscopic silica spheres that have been arranged in a regular pattern. When light enters the opal, it diffracts and reflects off of these spheres, creating a rainbow-like play of color and light.

    Types Of Opals

    There are several types of opals, including:

    • White opal: This type of opal has a white or light-colored body tone and displays flashes of color.
    • Black opal: A black opal has a dark body tone and is considered to be the most valuable type of opal due to its unique play of color.
    • Boulder opal: Boulder opals are found in seams and veins in ironstone boulders. They are often cut with the host rock still attached and feature a distinctive geological matrix of ironstone.
    • Fire opal: Fire opals have a transparent to translucent body color and exhibit a brilliant orange to red or yellow color.

    Importance Of Identifying Real Opals

    It is essential to distinguish a real opal from synthetic or imitation as the value, durability, and aesthetic of an opal depend on its authenticity. Identifying real opals involves observing their internal structure, color play, and other features. Moreover, knowing the origin of the opal and understanding the factors that affect its value can help you determine if the opal you are considering is a real gemstone.

    As an expert in seo-friendly content writing, i have crafted engaging and informative content about opals. Understanding opals’ different types and characteristics can help you determine the authenticity of a real gemstone. Always consult an expert in determining the authenticity of any opal.

    Factors To Consider When Spotting Real Opals

    Opals are striking gemstones known for their unique play of color. But how can you tell if an opal is real or fake? There are several factors to consider when identifying real opals. Here are the key factors to keep in mind when spotting real opals:

    Opal Body Tone

    Opals come in a range of body tones, from black to white. The body tone refers to the background color of the opal. Darker body tones tend to bring out more intense colors, while lighter body tones can have a softer effect.

    When examining an opal, consider its body tone in relation to its play of color. Genuine opals should exhibit a natural body tone, with no hint of uniform coloration.

    Play Of Color

    The play of color in an opal is what makes it truly unique. This refers to the way the colors in the opal shift and change as it is moved around under different lighting conditions. Genuine opals should display a range of colors, with the brightest and most intense hues visible from all angles.

    Transparency And Clarity

    Real opals do not have perfect transparency or clarity. In fact, they often have small inclusions or imperfections within the stone. These imperfections can actually enhance the opal’s play of color, making it more dynamic and interesting. If an opal appears to be flawless, it is likely a fake.

    Surface And Texture

    The surface of a genuine opal should be smooth and even. If you run your finger over the surface of the stone, you should not feel any bumps or irregularities. Additionally, the texture of the opal should not be too smooth or shiny – genuine opals often have a slightly rough or waxy texture.

    Size And Shape

    Opals come in a variety of sizes and shapes, so there is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to determining their authenticity. However, genuine opals will always have irregular shapes, with no two stones looking exactly the same. If you come across a perfectly symmetrical opal, it is likely a fake.


    Lastly, the weight of an opal can be a good indicator of its authenticity. Genuine opals are heavier than synthetic opals or imitations made from other materials. If an opal feels too lightweight, it is probably fake.

    By keeping these key factors in mind, you can learn how to spot a real opal from a fake. Consider all of these elements when purchasing an opal, and always buy from a reputable seller to ensure you are getting the real deal.

    The Opal Test: How To Test Real Opals

    Opals are beautiful gemstones known for their iridescence, which causes them to flash brilliant colors when viewed from different angles. However, with increased popularity comes the increased risk of purchasing fake opals. Fortunately, there are ways to test whether an opal is real or fake, and the most reliable method is known as “the opal test.

    ” Let’s explore the various ways to test for real opals, using the following h3 headings:

    Visual Inspection

    • Look for a play-of-color, which means the appearance of iridescent colors.
    • Check for the presence of natural cracks and fissures.
    • See if the opal is doublet or triplet – a composite made of different materials.

    Specific Gravity Test

    • Fill a beaker with water and note the water’s level.
    • Weigh the opal, and record its weight.
    • Submerge the opal in the water.
    • Record the new water level.
    • Compare the weight to volume, which is the difference between the starting water level and the new one.
    • Real opals have a specific gravity between 1.98 and 2.5, which means they are heavier than most other stones.

    Hardness Test

    • Use a hardness testing instrument to determine the opal’s resistance to scratching.
    • A real opal has a rating of 5.5 to 6.5 on the mohs scale of mineral hardness.

    Refractive Index Test

    • Observe the angle of light passing into the stone.
    • Measure the angle of light as it refracts out of the stone.
    • Calculate the refractive index using these measurements.
    • Real opals have a refractive index between 1.42 and 1.47, depending on the type.

    Spectroscope Test

    • Use a spectroscope to examine the opal’s light spectrum.
    • Real opals will display a spectral range of colors referred to as the “opal spectrum.”
    • A fake opal may not display the unique spectral range of colors that a real opal would.

    Following these simple tests to determine the authenticity of opals is a must. Remember that a play-of-color effect is a good sign, and a real opal will have a higher weight than others of the same size. Their resistance to scratching is another reliable indicator of opal’s authenticity, so do try the hardness test.

    The refractive index test and the spectroscopy test are a bit more complicated, but they remain the two most reliable methods of testing for true opals.

    Where To Find Real Opals

    Opals are one of the most stunning gemstones you can find, renowned for their mesmerizing play of color. However, not all opals are created equal. Natural, genuine opals have become increasingly rare and expensive, and for that reason, it’s essential to know how to tell if opal is real.

    One way of ensuring that you are getting the actual deal is by buying them from reputable sources or locations. Below is a guide on where to find real opals.

    Opal Mines

    If you are an adventure seeker or want to have a direct source, then visit opal mines can be a perfect solution. Australia dominates the global opal market, producing around 95% of the world’s precious opals, and there are plenty of opportunities to visit local mines and try your hand at finding one yourself.

    Other countries that have a significant contribution to the global opal market include ethiopia, mexico, peru, and the united states. However, before you visit, check the authenticity and reputation of the particular opal mine.

    Here are a few key points to keep in mind while visiting opal mines:

    • Opal mines are not only in remote locations but also come with some risks and uncertainties. Be well-prepared with ample supplies, guides, and so forth.
    • Understand the rules and regulations of the area, and some mines might require a permit before digging.
    • Undertake ample research before visiting an opal mine to gauge its reputation and authenticity.

    Online Stores

    The convenience offered by online shopping is unmatched, and buying genuine opals online is no exception. Many reputable opal dealers and online marketplaces offer quality and certified opals. However, be mindful and research the dealers thoroughly to avoid being a victim of counterfeit or synthetic opals.

    When buying opals online, consider the following:

    • Look for certifications and authenticity seals from governing bodies like the international gemological institute (igi) and the gemological institute of america (gia).
    • Only purchase from reputable and well-reviewed online dealers.
    • Always check the return policy and customer feedback to have an idea of the dealer’s customer care and product quality.

    Physical Stores

    Another great way to purchase genuine opals is by visiting physical stores. Jewelry stores and craft markets offer some of the best sources of genuine opals. Try visiting antique stores, estate sales, and galleries selling vintage jewelry or buying from gemstone dealers because they often stock rarer, high-quality opals.

    However, fake opals can also be sold in physical stores, so it’s crucial to take some precautions when buying them.

    Here are some crucial tips to keep in mind when visiting physical stores:

    • Examine the opal carefully, noticing the color, contrast, and play of flashes.
    • Look for inclusions inside the opal as real opals have unique patterns created by impurities and uneven evolution.
    • Seek certification from institutes like gia, igi, and the american gemological society (ags).
    • Evaluate the selling price as genuine opals are often sold at a higher price than imitation opals.

    Knowing how to tell if an opal is genuine is important as it is a significant investment. By choosing the right source to purchase from, be it online, physical stores, or directly from opal mines, you can guarantee that you are buying real and valuable opals.

    Caring For Your Opals: Dos And Don’Ts

    Opals are fascinating gemstones that come in various colors and patterns, making them a unique addition to any jewelry collection. However, determining if they are real can be tricky. Once you’ve ensured the authenticity of your opal, it is essential to care for it properly to maintain its beauty and luster.

    Here are some dos and don’ts for caring for your opals.

    Cleaning Opals

    Opals are fragile, and harsh cleaning techniques can damage or even crack them. Here are some of the best ways to clean your opals:

    • Do clean your opals with a soft brush, warm water, and mild detergent. Use a soft cloth to dry them thoroughly.
    • Don’t expose your opals to any strong chemicals, such as cleaning agents, perfumes, or hairsprays. These substances can damage them.
    • Do avoid ultrasonic cleaners, as they can crack your opals.

    Storing Opals

    Opals are sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, and improper storage can cause them to crack or lose their shine. Here are some dos and don’ts for storing your opals:

    • Do store your opals in a soft pouch or a jewelry box separate from other items. This will protect them from scratches and other damages.
    • Don’t store your opals near heat sources or in direct sunlight, as this can cause them to dry out or crack.
    • Do invest in a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels in your home. Keep your opals in moderate humidity, around 50%, to prevent them from drying out or cracking.

    Wearing And Handling Opals

    Opals are delicate, and proper handling is critical to keep them safe and prevent premature wear. Here are some dos and don’ts for wearing and handling your opals:

    • Do take off your opal jewelry while performing rigorous activities, such as exercising, gardening, or cleaning. This will prevent them from getting scratched or damaged.
    • Don’t wear opals in chlorinated pools or oceans, as the water can damage them. Similarly, avoid wearing them in extreme temperatures or high humidity conditions.
    • Do clean your opals regularly to remove any built-up dirt or oil from your skin.

    Taking care of your opal jewelry requires some extra effort, but it’s well worth it to maintain their unique beauty. Follow these dos and don’ts, and you’ll ensure that your opals last for generations to come.

    Frequently Asked Questions Of How To Tell If Opal Is Real

    How Can You Test If Opal Is Genuine?

    Opal can be tested for genuineness by performing a few simple tests, including the water test, uv light test, and using a jeweler’s loupe. Real opals should have a clarity level of 3 or above and a refractive index of 1.

    44 to 1. 45.

    What Are The Different Types Of Opals?

    Opals come in a variety of types, including white opal, black opal, fire opal, boulder opal, crystal opal, and matrix opal. Each type has unique patterns and color variations.

    How Is Opal Formed?

    Opals are created when water seeps down into crevices and cracks in the earth and mixes with silica deposits. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind silica spheres that bond together to form opal.

    What Is The Significance Of Opal Gemstone?

    Opal is known as the “queen of gemstones” and is said to symbolize purity, hope, and truth. It has been used for centuries in jewelry and is believed to have healing properties for various ailments.

    What Are The Benefits Of Wearing Opal?

    Wearing opal is believed to promote emotional healing, boost self-confidence, enhance creativity & inspiration, and provide protection from negative energies. It is also said to be beneficial for the eyes, skin, and hair.


    After reading this guide, you should now be confident in your ability to differentiate between a real and fake opal. Remember, it’s important to take into consideration the source of the opal, its physical properties, and the way it was cut and polished.

    Whether you’re purchasing opals as an investment or for their unique beauty, knowing how to identify a real opal will save you time and money in the long run. Don’t be fooled by imitations and always do your research before making a purchase.

    With this knowledge, you can now confidently shop for opals with the certainty that you’re getting the real deal. Happy opal hunting!


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