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Opals are a gem unlike any other. Each stone is uniquely beautiful, but some are much more valuable than the rest. If you are considering one of these gorgeous gems for yourself, you may wonder how much an opal stone will cost? Here's a short and sweet guide!
Opal tends to be a popular pick for jewelry and specimen collectors. You can find shows on television about individuals who hunt the elusive black Opal. However, it isn't just modern-day gem enthusiasts that love the mesmerizing colors of the Opal. For centuries this stone has been cherished for its beauty and the mystical powers it was believed to have.
Various cultures have sought out opals for their alleged mystical powers. They believed that it came from supernatural origins due to the unique and complex makeup of the stone. In Arabic culture, it was thought that opals came from the heavens, falling in flashes of lightning. Due to its supernatural birth, ancient Greeks believed it could protect owners from disease and give them prophetic sight. In later cultures, the Opal represented hope, truth, and purity. It has long been thought of as the luckiest of all gems as it can show all the colors of the rainbow.
Speaking of luck, today we recognize Opal as October's birthstone; some believe it is unlucky for those with birthdays in any other month to wear the stone. It is still equated with purity and hope. We also now know that there are two types of Opal – common Opal and precious Opal.
Opal is a precious gemstone commonly found in Australia. It is made from a mix of silica and water, known as a hydrated silicon dioxide mineraloid. The silica forms small spheres that diffract light, breaking it up. When this happens, the stone displays all the colors of the rainbow. This only happens with precious Opal.
Common Opal is dull, only one color, and does not show a play of color. Sometimes, precious Opal and common Opal are found mixed together; this is called potch. Potch and common Opal are relatively valueless. Precious Opal can be a variety of colors, from white to black, and even green, blue, or pink. Each body tone will show a "play of color" if it is a precious opal.
Opal value and price can depend on several factors. Each stone is unique, and its qualities determine its worth.
It is often the dominant color that affects the value of an opal. Opal's silica spheres determine the color. Larger spheres display reds and oranges, while smaller spheres show blues and greens. The colors will be more intense if the spheres are uniform in a grid-like pattern. Opals with predominantly red displays are the most valuable. Next are opals that are orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. However, it is also essential to consider how bright the stone is. A dull red or orange can still be less valuable than a brilliant blue or green. This is why black opals are most sought after when it comes to body tone. Their dark body makes the play of color appear brighter and more intense.
Opal clarity isn't like other gems in which gemologists look for inclusions or blemishes. Instead, it is more a consideration of the opal stone's transparency, with inclusions given secondary consideration. Opals can be almost entirely transparent or opaque. Depending on the type of Opal, transparency can be more or less valued. Often white or colorless, Crystal opals are more valuable if they're transparent.
In contrast, black opals are more desirable if they're opaque. This is because gemologists want the best background to show off the stone's play of color. Inclusions, such as common Opal mixed with precious Opal and milky or cloudy backgrounds, can detract from the stone's value.
Opals can be small or large. Smaller opals are excellent for opal engagement rings. However, due to the stone's low density, even large opals can still be comfortable and relatively lightweight. The Fire of Australia, considered the most valuable Opal, comes in at slightly below 5,000 carats.
A cutter must pay close attention to an opal's clarity, color, and pattern. They want to achieve the best play of color, which means opals can sometimes have irregular shapes. They're not often cut into the usual gem shapes we think of. On the other hand, opals that are of average quality for jewelry will usually be fashioned into ovals. These stones must be symmetrical. They should have domed surfaces to protect against breakage if it is a cabochon.
Opal cost largely depends on the body tone and the play of color. As mentioned, stones that are predominantly red or orange in their display are more valuable. Additionally, opals with a black body tone cost more than other colors. If the stone is brilliant, bright, and fiery, it will demand a higher price than those that are dull. Like other gems, larger opals of fine quality will cost more than those of a smaller carat weight.
Opals can be treated and in most cases treatment degrades their value. Some opals may be heat treated. Usually, this is done to increase the durability of the stone. Very porous opals can be fragile; one treatment is filling the openings with resin. Alternatively, graphite carbon particles may be fused into the pores to make the body look blacker. A sugar solution may be applied to Opal and then heated, after which it goes into a sulphuric acid bath. This is done to help the body tone falsely imitate a black opal. Similarly, charcoal burning and smoke treatment have been historically used to make an opal resemble a black opal. It's generally advised to avoid opals that have been treated.
Precious Opal can be quite valuable, especially depending on its body tone and dominant color.
Opal is October's birthstone.
Top-quality black opals can be more expensive than diamonds, reaching $6,000 or more per carat for the finest specimens.
Opal can have a considerable price range depending on its characteristics, costing anywhere from $10 to upwards of $6000 per carat.