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One of the hardest things to decide on when buying opal is the cut. This might seem like the first question you’d ask yourself when buying any gem, but opal is especially unique. Depending on the cut of the opal, you can be stunned by the unique play-of-colors it displays when light hits it just right.
Many aspects go into this decision, and we hope that our guide to opal cuts will help make that decision a little bit easier for you.
When it comes to opal, the cut you choose can completely change the way you see the gem. opals are one of the few gemstones that are often cut into shapes that are unique to get the most play-of-color.
Typically, clarity is the most important aspect of the opal. The clarity will determine how many inclusions are in the stone. Opals can be completely transparent, or they can be opaque which would lower their value.
Opals are the most popular gemstone to cut into cabochons. A cabochon is a gemstone that has been shaped by polishing the stone into a round or oval shape. Cabochons usually have convex faces and domes without having to cut into the stone.
Usually, when a gemstone is cut, it is faceted to ensure the light can pass through the stone without any resistance. This would seem like the best way to cut an opal because it has such a fascinating play-of-color, but that is only true for the most transparent opals. Most opals are quite opaque and therefore they get turned into cabochons.
Once the jewelry maker or buyer has selected an opal that meets their needs, the opal will be rough cut into a general shape. Opals are not very dense, so even larger opals can be comfortable to wear in a variety of different placements.
Opal is quite sensitive to burning, so water is applied throughout the process to keep the stone cool. The end product will depend on the clarity of the gemstone. An opal that is really opaque and will not undergo any treatment will be turned into something like beads for a necklace. The higher quality and transparent stones will be larger and take center stage of a ring or necklace.
When considering whether to buy a natural or a lab-created opal, there are two major factors to think about. The first would be affordability. Do you have a large budget to spend on this opal, or would you rather save a bit of money? If your answer is the latter, then a lab-created opal is likely the better option.
Opals are full of water. Over time, they can become dehydrated, especially if not maintained properly. If they become dehydrated, they will become very brittle due to something called crazing. Crazing happens when tiny fractures and cracks develop throughout the stone. This not only makes the gemstone more fragile but can also diminish its beauty. It is important to note that a smaller opal will be less fragile than a larger opal so if you end up going the natural route but want less maintenance, choose a smaller opal.
An Asscher cut opal looks like an emerald cut but features a more square shape. When you look at an Asscher cut from above, it looks like a perfect square but the corners are cut to allow more light to enter the stone.
An emerald cut is a classic cut that has clipped corners to create a shape similar to an octagon. Emerald cuts are usually rectangular and the long parallel cuts are emphasized throughout the stone.
A baguette cut is cut in the shape of a rectangle but has four corners that create a four-sided polygon. The facets are extended which makes it a good choice for the major stone in a piece.
A carre cut features four sharp corners that are angled at about 90 degrees.
A round cut is circular and is one of the most popular choices for an opal because it lets the most light in, allowing the play-of-color to take center stage.
An oval cut opal is similar to a round brilliant cut but more elongated than a round cut. Oval cuts can be a great choice for someone who wants to accentuate the play-of-color in opal in a classic yet unique shape. An oval cut can make the gemstone appear larger even if it is the same weight.
A cushion cut opal is a square cut that has rounded corners that can look like a couch cushion or pillow when finished.
A princess cut is one of the most popular gemstone cuts. It usually features 50 to 58 facets depending on how the gemstone is cut. These cuts can feature up to four chevron patterns which are only seen when you look down at the gemstone.
Lab-created opals are real opals. The process in which a lab-created opal is grown is the same as in nature. It has the same properties and chemicals as a naturally mined opal. The only difference between the two is that one is created in a laboratory setting to ensure a higher clarity and stronger opal.
Round is the best cut for an opal because it showcases 57 facets of the gemstone which will allow the most play-of-color as well as maintain an elegant shape.
Most opals are not faceted, however, you can certainly facet an opal.
A cabochon opal is an opal that is shaped into a round or curved dome. This is done through the process of polishing rather than cutting.