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Synthetic Opal Jewelry: A video guide

Today we are going to talk about buying opal jewelry – specifically recognising synthetic opal jewelry.

Firstly, let me say that synthetic opal jewelry definitely has a place in our wardrobes when we are looking for fashion piece rather than a long last heirloom or classic jewel. We define synthetic as man made and lab created. It can be plastic or a resin which contains silica like natural opal.

So how do we tell? Well Justin has explained in a previous video his top 3 tips so we shall go through them quickly here but to know more click here.

  1. The first telltale sign is uniform or repeating pattern throughout the whole stone – no potch found  – even on the blackest of opals.
  2. The pattern is columns of colour so you may see the column or the termination where the pattern is fairly blocky and distinct.
  3. When looking into a synthetic opal you see a lizard like skin appearing within the pattern of the opal. This is a pattern rarely found in nature.

Finally, going back to our first tip about a repeating pattern, I would say that looking at the back of the stone is also very important. Does the pattern look the same as the face only unpolished? Is there any potch to indicate a natural opal or doublet or triplet opal?

Three additional tips

For me there are 3 further factors to consider namely:

  • Metal
  • Workmanship
  • Price
Column structure of opal in bracelet
Column structure of opal in bracelet

I bought this bracelet in the video from a high street store that sold both costume and fine jewellery.

Its a silver bracelet with a bezel set opal attached.

Now the opal has lovely play of colour but can you see the tell tale columnar structure around the side?

The opal is small so the chance to see repeating pattern is minimal, however it is fairly uniform and if you turn the piece over you see an absence of potch. Now in a natural crystal opal this is fine but if you take a much closer look you can see in this one the pattern is exactly the same on the back as the front – which is another tell tale sign the opal is synthetic.

Lizard skin pattern is present (zoom in to see)
Lizard skin pattern is present (zoom in to see)

Finally with a loupe we were able to see the lizard skin pattern – here is the best close up of this that I could get!

The bracelet is stamped 925, so it’s made from sterling silver. This is great. Costume jewellery is often base metal plated in silver or gold. I often see natural opal in sterling silver so this doesn’t necessarily help us on our quest to discover whether its real or not.

The next point is the workmanship. The bracelet looks to be made well but the beads are strung on elastic. The connection where the opal sits has been crimped together rather than being soldered. The final polish is also a bit rougher than what you expect on a piece of fine jewellery.

Finally the price. This piece retails for $139.00 and the markup may have been double or even triple this. Unfortunately the chances of it being a real opal are slim. The bulk of the cost in this piece is actually sterling silver.

In Conclusion

As you can see with this example there are many factors to take into consideration.  personally I think it is a sweet bracelet and is a lovely piece of costume jewellery that I would be happy to wear.

I hope you’ve learnt a little more about what to look for when buying opal and particularly synthetic opal jewelry.

Do you have a favourite piece of opal jewelry that no matter it’s quality – you still love?

  • Great presentation, the visual in concert with a precise explanation of what we are looking at locked it all together, Very well done

  • David Sahadi

    Great job, the video is very well done. I do have one comment. A high quality piece of Opal Matrix (like from Andamooka) will also have that snake skin pattern.

  • Raven Butler

    Oh how I wish I had known this many years ago!!! I would not have made many purchases under false dealers !!! Thank you so much for the information. I have learned much over the years. Maybe this will help some of your subscribers not to make the same mistakes that I did!!!

    • Ruth BT

      Exactly Raven!