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What's the Difference Between Opal Doublets, Opal Triplets, and Solid Opals?

Opals come in three different categories: doublets, triplets, and solid opals. Opal doublets and triplets are a beautiful and more affordable alternative to solid opals, but it is important to understand the differences between them to determine which option is most suitable to your lifestyle. Opal doublets and triplets are layered opals designed to enhance the appearance and perceived value of a thin or lighter piece of opal by gluing it to a dark backing, amplifying its unique play of color.

Identifying opal doublets, opal triplets, and solid opals

Let’s take a closer look at each type of opal and how to identify them:

Opal doublets

An opal doublet is a type of assembled gemstone composed of two layers: a piece of clear or translucent opal and, most often, a piece of black or dark potch (common) opal. The dark backing may also be black industrial glass, hard plastic, brown ironstone, or vitrolite. A doublet can be identified by looking at its side or edges. It will have a very clean, straight, and visible seam where the opal was glued to the black backing, whereas the edge around a solid opal will have a more organic, jagged delineation between colored precious opal and host rock. Doublets are commonly used to imitate a solid black opal because the black backing shows through the clear, solid opal resulting in darker and more vibrant colors. 

Opal doublet
Opal doublet
Solid opal
Solid opal
As you can see from these images, unless you know exactly what the difference is, a solid opal can be easily mistaken for a doublet and vice versa. In fact, this happened to one of our clients. She sent us what she believed was an opal doublet that her dad had gifted her and requested we transform it into a necklace. However, upon closer inspection, we were delighted to share with her that her stone (2nd image) was actually a stunning, solid Boulder Opal. She was thrilled (as were we!) and she now adores the one-of-a-kind, gold opal necklace we created for her from her breathtaking and sentimental blue opal.
Custom Boulder opal necklace from NIXIN Jewelry
Custom Boulder opal necklace from NIXIN

Opal triplets

An opal triplet is similar to an opal doublet in that it is also a thin slice of opal that’s been enhanced by a darker host rock; however, the solid opal is then magnified with a domed quartz or glass topper. This creates three layers to this type of opal – hence the name ‘triplet.’  The black backing does an excellent job of illuminating the play of color on the opal layer, which can really make the piece of jewelry stand out. Combining this with a glass topper not only protects the opal, but magnifies the intensity of the color and pattern, which can greatly enhance the overall appearance. Moreover, because the topper is made of synthetic materials, triplets have the benefit of a buffering layer from impact.

Opal triplet: Image by Mac's Opals
Opal triplet: Image by Mac's Opals

Here are three signs of an opal triplet:

  1. A glue line where the solid opal meets the base.
  2. A very thin layer of color sandwiched between a dark-colored potch opal and a dome of quartz or glass.
  3. The opal top looks glassy, and the color does not travel to the top of the gemstone.

Solid opals

Natural solid opals are the most valuable because they are cut from only the natural stone without any treatment or enhancement. There have not been any man-made clear tops or backing glued to them. While all opal should be handled with care, solid opals are generally more durable than doublets or triplets because they are composed of one solid piece of opal, rather than a thin layer of natural opal adhered to additional materials.  Three of the most predominant types of solid opal include light and crystal opal, Boulder opal, and Black opal. 

Exhale lavender Boulder opal rose gold ring by NIXIN Jewelry
Exhale lavender Boulder opal rose gold ring by NIXIN

How to care for opal doublets and opal triplets

Opal doublets and triplets can be beautiful and more cost-effective alternatives to solid opal gemstones. However, it is important to understand how to care for them to avoid damage. Doublets and triplets are made of multiple layers that have been glued together, so exposure to water will eventually cause lifting between the layers and water damage. If this happens, they will start to appear ‘foggy’ or grey and the layers can separate completely.  While opal doublets can be just as striking in appearance as solid opals, a doublet can also be more susceptible to damage, given its very thin layer of opal atop the potch. This is something to take into consideration when deciding whether to opt for a doublet or a solid opal in your opal jewelry.

To care for these pieces, doublets and triplets may be wiped with a soft, damp cloth and mild detergent, but should never be soaked or submerged in water. You should also avoid bleach, chemicals, cleaners, and ultrasonic cleaners, avoid blunt force and remove these pieces before any rigorous activity.  While chemical exposures and blunt force should also be avoided with solid Australian Opals, solids should not be damaged by immersion in water.

If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind work of art that speaks to your heart and captures your unique story of strength, perseverance, or love, visit our shop and explore our extraordinary selection of opal rings for women. Nicki, Founder and Designer of NIXIN Jewelry, selects only the most striking opal gemstones and transforms them into mesmerizing visuals that will delight your eyes and ignite your soul.

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