How to Pick Opal Jewelry

When it comes to Opal jewelry, the truth is that it can be easy to feel overwhelmed — there are just so many options available. The plethora of amazing things a good jeweler can do with Opals is just mind-boggling. From intricate golden laced designs, baroque yet incredibly refined, to simple minimalistic confections that simply wow through their subdued nuance. In this article we’re going to provide Holiday Opal gift guide tips - after all, Black Friday is just around the corner. A great bullet point guide on what to look for when buying Opal jewelry, and how to leverage your budget when investing in this extraordinary gemstone.

Why Buy Opal Jewelry?

Whether as a gift, an engagement ring, or simply because you want to pamper yourself, you can find an exceptional Opal to mark any occasion. What makes them such a remarkable choice? Well, besides their obvious beauty, Opals have a rich and highly affluent history to them. They are inherently, by their very nature, far more unique than gold or silver or other go-to materials used in the design of jewelry. Opals, unlike the aforementioned, aren’t tradable commodities. They can’t be traded on a market for others of their kind. Materials like gold, silver, copper, and other precious metals are fungible by nature. What does that mean? Well, it means that once market metrics - demand and supply - seal in a price, you could trade one amount of that material for another and come out even-steven. You could barter 1 ounce of gold from Australia, for 1 ounce of gold from Mexico and the values equate. They are fungible goods — items that are interchangeable because they are identical to each other for practical purposes.

Opals, on the other hand, are non-fungible. They are unique assets. Each Opal is one-of-a-kind, its personal qualities either add or subtract value. When you buy an Opal you are in fact buying something irreplaceable, something that is exclusive, rare, and exceptionally singular. 

This is the main reason why, up to the beginning of the 20th century, Opals were prized possessions for aristocrats and monarchs and folks like Rockefeller and Edison — the creme de la creme. Anyone could have gold, anyone could buy a silver coin and melt it into a ring, but few people could acquire quality Opals. Up until Australia had its Opal mining explosion, the gemstone was in rare supply and demand for the gem was high. This was the stone Marc Antony showered Cleopatra with; the rare rock Sultans went to war over; the birthstone Shakespeare called “the mother of gemstones.”

What to take into account when buying Opals

Black isn’t always the new black

Black Opals are notoriously the most valuable gemstones of their kind. Their dark background hues allow contrasting colors and patterns to stand out. Nonetheless, there are reasons why some people shy away from black Opals.  Most notably:

  • They can be incredibly expensive. Black Opals are among the most costly and upscale gemstones in existence.
  • Some find their dark body a bit somber and perhaps too mysterious. The truth is that although incredibly lavish and posh, some people simply don’t covet the look of black opals and prefer the lighter body tones of White Opals and Crystal Opals.

Opals possess an organic aesthetic that gives them an edge over other stones. They are more natural, more inherently pure, and their reflective pattern is less preconfigured than with nearly any other gem. As such they are revered gems in the sunlight, treasured adornments for sunny outings, or - as has become the trend - at weddings on the bride’s finger. Would you give your fiancé a black stone as an engagement ring? Or would you be more likely to go with a Crystal Opal ring for her forever piece?


Opal Ring


Equilibrium Rose Gold Crystal Opal Ring

The cut of the stone

Diamonds are cut by faceting the pavilion (cone shape) of the stone, giving them their radiant sparkle — Opals are meticulously polished and carefully set. Opals are incredibly delicate gemstones and for the best results, should be handled by expert craftsmen and jewelers experienced in Opal. The slightest error, and suddenly you have a gigantic gash on the Opal’s surface or worse yet, a broken stone. 

It’s important, when investing in a piece of Opal jewelry, to take your time to determine if the gemstone is of the quality you desire. Be sure you understand the difference between a Solid Opal, Opal Doublet and Opal Triplet and that the piece you’re purchasing is what you’re expecting. The vendor should be able and willing to address questions, should you ask.  Remember, while diamonds and other gemstones are typically faceted and calibrated with precise hard-edge tools, Opals are most often left in their natural state, with some shaping to their perimeter and a quality polish job. A natural Opal is likely to have some imperfections in it, be that in its pattern or topography.  Checking the back of the stone, when the setting is left open, is a great way to help assess the authenticity of the gem.  There are synthetics on the market, so it’s prudent to familiarize yourself with differences.  If the stone’s pattern looks too geometrically perfect and regular, it can be an indication of a synthetic Opal.

Choose an Opal that goes with your skin color

Opals of the World

Image courtesy of Geologyin

There are some people who only care about the value of the gemstone. They want an Opal that they can boast about, the Rolls Royce of Opals. Those individuals may be best advised to stick with Black Opals from Lightning Ridge, Australia.  Others, however, consider more variables, like how flattering the gemstone will be when worn. That’s why it is important to pick Opal pieces that flatter your skin tone. Consider both the colors you love, as well as the colors that look best on you when shopping for your Opal stone.  If you prefer blue Opals, or yellow, or green Opals, then buy one of those colors — otherwise you might end up with a really expensive heirloom you hardly wear.  You want to love the piece you select!

Vet your Opal Designer or Opal Jeweler 

When investing in Opal jewelry, make sure you purchase from a trusted vendor.  Opals are delicate stones and it’s important that they are designed around with intention, and crafted with the utmost care.  An experienced designer understands which stones can be most safely used in which types of settings...and can execute upon them beautifully.  If you’ve never worked with them before, try reading their reviews, explore their social media or reach out to them with a question over email to see how they reply.  Feeling comfortable is an important first step in any purchase.

Other tips?

Remember that:

  • Opals need extra care 
  • Opal values will vary by type
  • Take into account the pattern and brilliance of the stone 

If you’re interested in learning how Opals are valued, and finding a bit more info on how to pick a gemstone, click the following link. 

Nevertheless, what really matters is to select an Opal that you fall head over heels for. Whether you seek a perfect gem, or an Opal decorated with potch and inclusions, one that complements your skin tone or carries all your favorite colors, finding a stone that speaks to you - that’s what truly matters. 

At NIXIN Jewelry, we believe in finding beauty in the unexpected. We offer a collection of handcrafted Australian opal rings, opal necklaces, opal bracelets and opal earrings in an array of sizes and styles. Ready to ship opal jewelry and jewelry cleaner also available.

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