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Which opal is the impostor?

How can I tell if an opal is Β lab created, treated or fake opal?Β 

I get many enquiries with people asking me this question and sending me images of ‘cheap opal’ they have found for sale on the internet. I am saddened when they purchase this opal only to be told it is fake, synthetic, treated opal, lab created …take your pick..it’s not real! It’s not a genuine opal!

The internet is saturated with Ethiopian treated opal and lab created opal. Lab created is referring to opal that is manmade in a laboratory. As you can well image the amount that can be produced under such conditions is limitless. It is currently being mass produced out of China.

This video has been especially made to help you identify what is real and what is fake. See if at the end of the presentation you to can spot the ‘opal imposter’.

Can you tell which opal is fake?

Synthetic Opal
Vertical striations displayed in synthetic lab created opal

The video is a visual presentation where I will show you six stones.

Five of the gems are top gem quality opal one of the stones is a lab created opal.

Can you tell which opal is the imposter?

The answer is number 4.

Now carefully replay the presentation you will note vertical striations and on the side of the stone when tilted and a ‘ lizard skin patterning’ .

This helps you to identify the fake, lab created opal. For a more detailed explanation go to our main video on How to spot a fake opal.

 

 

  • Chuck Rose

    #4

  • Ronald Rogowski

    #4

    • Blackopaldirect

      Why do you say is it fake?

  • Richie

    #7 πŸ™‚

    • Blackopaldirect

      Funny man Richie trust you

      • Richie

        Lol! I thought you may get a kick outta my guess. I’ll go with the other 2 guys, #4.

        • Blackopaldirect

          BAAAAAAA! (that’s a sheep by the way)

          • Richie

            We definitely got a lot of those in The USA, of the human kind πŸ˜‰

          • Blackopaldirect

            That’s the world over my friend

          • Richie

            Sadly, that’s more true than ever before. I have a feeling things will change in 2017. One can always hope, especially after 8 years of chaos ;).

          • Blackopaldirect

            Haha don’t get me started I wont stop

          • Richie

            I hear ya.
            Had a ‘discussion’ with a family member the other day.
            Fageddaboudit, as they say.
            Quite astonishing, to put it nicely.
            I wish you a safe & prosperous trip in Tucson, my friend.

          • Blackopaldirect

            Thank you my friend.

  • Benny Want

    I think nr 4.

    • Blackopaldirect

      Hi Benny In your mind what makes the opal look fake?

      • Benny

        To much colourspots and strokes in the same direction! To beautifull to be true!

  • Michael Rohman

    4! There’s no doubt in my mind!!!!! I’ve worked that crap for a customer once….. Never again!

    • Blackopaldirect

      Did you know it was fake. It is hard to get a good polish on it hey?

      • Michael Rohman

        No, I didn’t know it was at first. I discovered this when I put it to the cerium to polish it and it acted like a newer cheap watch crystal….. Fortunately I also have the polish for watch crystals and I used that to get the crap to polish. I then called the customer to break the bad news about the opal they gave me. They knew it was Gleason opal but “thought all opal was the same”….. Well, I still got paid the same as if it were a true opal, so? I had to explain to them that even at a gem and mineral show there are dealers that both honestly tell you they are selling made-made material and those that will rip you off!

        • Blackopaldirect

          Very weird scenario Michael. The opal is Synthetic resin opal. Gilson opal is a different type of created opal that is made from silica and does polish up ok.

          • Michael Rohman

            I’m sorry. The stuff I worked looked like the stuff in the picture and the people told me it was from the Gleason opal fields. This was back in 1989 or 90 when I was first starting out professionally. I have always avoided man-made gem material as much as possible. Synthetic crystal gem material was really booming then and I didn’t want any part of it. Again, I am sorry about any mix up from my story.

          • Blackopaldirect

            All good buddy. Where is the Gleason opal field?

          • Michael Rohman

            Well Jason, your guess would be better than mine on that, if it really is an opal field. I’m thinking the dealer they acquired the material from told them that since they were also told it was genuine stuff….. Ah, to hell with politeness, they bought the material from a lying crook, is my guess. Any “gem” dealer that would knowingly sell syn material as natural is a thief. I loved the stuff Len Cram was making, it was absolutely gorgeous, looked totally natural (which he discovered the natural process and was mimicking, and to my knowledge he never allowed any to be sold)

          • Blackopaldirect

            Yeah Len Crams Gilson was the best created opal there is. Their is Gilson out there in the marketplace. but I think it was put to a halt as Len may have thought it could jeopardize the natural opal industry

          • Gerry

            Len had nothing to do with Gilson Created Opal being absent from the market. My company (the oldest in the USA, specializing in Australian opal – more than 75 years at it) also took on the world distribution of Gilson Created Opal about 25 years ago. The reason that Gilson is no longer produced has only to do with the fact that when the USSR broke up, the Russian crystal-growers were out of work for the state. Beryllium, the mineral most responsible for certain weapons production as well as synthesizing a man-made emerald was now available in large enough quantities so that the synthetic emerald meant quick and ready cash to those crystallographers who had access to platinum crucibles and plenty of capacity. When tht happened, a man named Barzoi, living in Thailand and familiar with the Novosibersk scientist-growers, began to contract with them to make and sell him the lab-emerald rough productions. He very quickly captured a huge market, selling his productions fro approximately 1/10th the going price. So, now back to the Gilson Created Opal: This was produced from formulae developed by Pierre Gilson but purchased entirely by Turgil, S.A. a company owned by the Otsuka family corporate entity. Productions of the synthesized opal were but a tiny % of the output of that production facility. The lab-emerald as well as a significant flame-fusion watch dial business are what kept the lights and power on 24/7/365. When the lab-created emerald business went south with the price wars, all the rest of the burden to keep the lights on fell on the flame-fusion sapphire and the lab-created opal business. Soon enough, the Chinese entered the market with a flame-fusion sapphire production, and the Koreans picked up on the milling technology. That resulted in yet another price battle. The only product left standing, still unbeaten by any other productions of a true synthetic opal was the Gilson Created Opal. But the burden of keeping the facility, with all its attendant costs, open fell to the lab opal productions. And, due to a far smaller market demand for just the lab-opal, we all decided to taper off productions. So, about 9 years ago or so, that is exactly what happened. We still had about 200 kgs or so of material in reserve, as well as a large quantity of material we had cut in our various cutting operations across Asia and the USA, but new productions were now shut down and remain so to this day. Much of the equipment was sold off to various entities. That is the whole truth of the history. I can continue to tell you all about the successor productions that now come from Kyocera’s operations in Japan and elsewhere, but that is a long conversation that will come only if you ask for that info. Meantime, I want to stress this point once again: Manning Opal Corporation (d.b.a. Manning International) is the oldest company in America specializing in NATURAL Australian opal productions. Our company began in Australia in 1938. We have a long a storied history on and off the various opal fields. I took over the Gilson Created Opal after several others attempted to market it in the world. I was approached by Turgil’s president some 25 years back. He had known that Pierre Gilson had approached us back in 1975, asking if we wanted the entire production of lab opal, emerald, turquoise, an imitation coral, and various other experimental productions he wanted to pass along. At that time we refused. The Gilson Created Opal had not been completely perfected. It was porous (something like the Ethiopian opal, no matter which field that comes from). In addition to that, the Gilson materials were very costly, and natural opal was still readily available in highly price-competitive rough productions. BUT, 15 years later, the story was very different. Turgil approached us cautiously, knowing that we’d refused an earlier match-up. They wanted to give us the USA productions. We refused. If we built the USA market, we’d also be building the Asian market and thus our own demise. Finally, after months of negotiation, Turgil agreed that we would have 100% of productions, save a tiny amount they would have for vanity-production sales in Japan only. We agreed, and thus Gilson Created Opal became the world-wide staple that you all know of. Our company just sold the last 50 kgs of roughs 2 years ago. Along with that production, we sold all of our cut reserves. There is still Gilson Created Opal in the marketplace but it is rare as hen’s teeth now. The newer productions out there are all from Kyocera. That material, while technically a “synthetic,” is very different from Gilson’s productions. Colors are more static. Material is less vibrant, and the presence of zirconium is far greater in the lattice than any remnant quantities exist in natural opal (or in Gilson for that matter). Yet for those who want a “synthetic” as opposed to a “simulant,” Kyocera’s productions are the only game in town – at least at this point. BUT, Kyocera is making a huge production of the “simulated” opal. This is the material you’ve shown in your image of a rough “black” version. That material is (more or less) as much as 20% polymer resins or other hardeners that hold the lattice together. This material is always flammable, so if you ever want to know if your opal is “fake,” just hold it to a match flame for a period of 5 seconds or so. It will begin to smoke (noxious fumes) and then to burn. If that is the kind of fire you want in your opal, you’ve got it! So, folks, this is the skinny. If anyone wants more information, you can always contact me at: info@manningintl.com

          • Blackopaldirect

            Wow Gerry thank you for setting it straight. Their is a lot of great information there. Definitely information I didn’t know. Glad you could shed some light on Gilsons origins and production. I love you knowledge in the industry. πŸ™‚

          • Gerry

            My pleasure. You can always reach me to request more detail.
            Best to all,
            Gerry Manning

          • Blackopaldirect

            Haha now your talking Michael.

  • Larry Brink

    #

    #4

  • Jeremy

    4 is fake

  • HsinMing

    #5

    • Blackopaldirect

      Why no 5? πŸ™‚

  • Roscoe

    would say No.4 os the imposterI

  • Orianne LΓ©vΓ©nez

    number 4?

    • Blackopaldirect

      Orianne thakns for the answer. Why do you say number 4?

  • sab

    No. 4 seems the most obvious answer. Very uniform and such a unique pattern I’ve not seen in my many months of googling haha and just looks too good to be true.

    However, optimist that I am (and firm believer in the miricles in nature) maybe no.5 is the imposter?

    I know you’re meant to look out for a repeating pattern in the opal so I watched it a few times and couldn’t make anything out, but I feel better knowing I know that *very smug face* (and yes I hear the **cough/teachers pet cough cough**). I’ve Googled fake black opals in the past and they seem the have a similar pattern to no.5.

    So my answer is 4 or 5.

    • Blackopaldirect

      Thanks for the comment Sab haha Mother Nature can be an amazing creater and 5 of these stones are from her and only one is from a factory. One of them you chose is right πŸ™‚

  • Soren Cicchini

    No.4 – colours are good (I’m actually quite impressed – I’d use that on furniture, knife handles and costume jewellery if they priced it appropriately, especially if they dropped the pretense and sold it in larger than natural sizes, e.g. 300 mm strips) but the structure is wrong: it looks like an extrusion. You might have some more problems if they figure out that they should face it at 90 degrees to the way that they did and add some fake black potch as a base. They could also spend a little bit more time generating a smooth curve on the dome if they are targeting the premium market (it looks a bit like the two angle valve face grind you get on a reconditioned engine).

    • Blackopaldirect

      Yes Soren thanks for the comments. It does come in blocks and you can get them quite large. A knife handle would look spectacular in it and it will hold together quite well for resin. You can cut it from any angle giving it a different look/pattern every time. You are right about the valve grind.

    • Blackopaldirect

      This is how it comes in the rough

      • Soren Cicchini

        Oh, wow! Does it look as good “in the flesh” as it does on video? I’d love to use it for inlay, but I’m not sure my conscience would let me while they sell it in chunks that are obviously designed for deception. I’d feel better about it If it was marketed as a beautiful synthetic (which it is) and only sold in thin veneers suitable for inlay, marquetry and triplets, but not false solid opal.

        • Blackopaldirect

          There is no problem in selling it if you have disclosed that it is synthetic or man-made Opal. It would look fantastic as a knife handle

          • Soren Cicchini

            Agreed. Knife handle would look awesome, and I could proudly produce and sell this having declared it for what it is. My ethical dilemma is whether I’d be comfortable supporting a business that must know about the unscrupulous deceptive use of its product. I guess it’s hard to be upset with them for doing too good a job approximating the rare beauty of nature, and probably would come down to how I felt after seeing their marketing material and getting a feel for how they operate.

          • Blackopaldirect

            It is not the manufacturers of this Synthetic Opal that is the problem it is the sellers that cut it to put in Jewelry. The Chinese company sell it as synthetic created Opal. They are okay for the most part.

          • John Sims

            Only trouble there, Justin, is … will its synthetic origin be disclosed if/when the stone is sold again?

          • Blackopaldirect

            That is correct John

  • Terry Cecil

    I think #4.

  • Randolph Reazor

    4-looks like it was speckled paint and not as flashy as the other opals!

    • Blackopaldirect

      Too uniformed huh! πŸ™‚ Thanks for the comment

  • Paul Maloney

    number 4

  • krakit

    That #4 is a Kyocera opal. It has a specific smell when cut. you can see the near perfect repeat of pattern. That is because the polymer that makes up the individual colors is injected and puled up through the base material with thousands of small needle like tubes. It is very hard, takes heat well and I have found it very easy to cut and polish. It is sad to see it every where, mostly department stores. Sold as real ..shame, shame …

    • Blackopaldirect

      totally agree Krakit it is a shame people sell it as real and it does have that resin smell when you cut it. The only thing it can’t be polished like a real opal very well. It does pitt on the surface. Thanks for the comment πŸ™‚

  • Stacy Adelizzi

    Definitely number 4…first it seems to be the only crystal opal in the group shown and although I don’t have the stone in hand to use my eye the pattern it too tight and uniform. Is it also slightly pitted…? I can’t be sure. Number 6 is a beautiful stone, btw.

    • Blackopaldirect

      HI Stacy When you say crystal, are you referring to the fact it has no back on it like a opaque black opal. Because a crystal is usually lighter in bodytone unles it is a black crystal opal. Let me know your thoughts?

      • Gene Smith

        I have a black crystal with awesome blue and a touch of green. Opal #4 is the impostor. The color runs in columns from one side to the other. I’ve yet to see a natural opal from any location with a pattern like this fake. A friend from Park City has 2 Gilson black opal that look surprisingly real. He was offered $250,000 US for them by miner friends in Australia, but wouldn’t sell as they aren’t real.

        • Blackopaldirect

          Great to hear, you know your stuff Gene πŸ™‚
          Yes the Gilson opal is the most be copied imposter of them all and people have been caught over and over again with Gilson. It is still though just too perfect.

  • Becky Palmer

    I think #4 is the imposter. I would so love to own #3. πŸ™‚

    • Blackopaldirect

      You have learnt well Becky πŸ™‚

  • John Sims

    Hey, Justin
    I’d say number 4. The pattern is too uniform.
    Also, if that stone were genuine, why isn’t it a double-sided example?
    Simmo

    • Blackopaldirect

      I like your thinking Simmo. I didn’t polish the back for a reason but you could πŸ™‚

  • Rich Weiss

    I think the fake is number 4.

  • Rodger Atwood

    I have never seen an opal like number 4, not even the old gilson stones, might have the wrong name but its close.

    • Blackopaldirect

      Yes it is different. The piece is resin based not silica so its a softer compound. Even Gilson is not as uniformed.Thanks for the comment Rodger πŸ™‚

  • Tony Baldridge

    No. 4 it is and Gene Smith hit the nail on the head with the most recognizable feature being the “color runs in columns”. On the subject of the jewelry industry selling synthetics, it’s a shame that although a lot of commercial dealers do label their synthetics by manufacturer, such as “Chatham Emerald” or “Ramaura Ruby”, the sign or label seldom mentions that the stone is synthetic. This is very misleading and a lot of customers buy without questioning the origin of the stone.

    • Blackopaldirect

      Yes and they don’t question out of trusting in the vendor. It is sad but it happens in everything all around the world. The only thing we can do is inform as many who want to know or find out. Thanks for the comment Tony

    • enviropal99

      Any time there is a name in front of the gemstone type I assume it is created by man. I also don’t go after anything but the gemstones valued for centuries. Newly discovered stones like tanzanite could become so common as to be the same as a garnet. Ruby, emerald, diamond, etc. are the only things to put any money into. And since diamonds are getting easier to manufacture and specialized equipment necessary to determine the fakes they are getting questionable.

      • Blackopaldirect

        Agreed Tony thanks for the comments

      • Sharon Gulezian

        When I sell a real gemstone I always put Natural in front to it.

  • Rob

    Ill go for 4. Certainly different pattern and seems too uniform

    • Blackopaldirect

      Spot on the money there Rob πŸ™‚

  • krakit

    I have talked directly with the Kyocera distributer and it can be bought cheap enough if you buy quantity. It is poured in trays that are about 24″ x 18″ you can get fairly large pieces if you order direct. It comes in many colors.
    I have thought like Soren that it would be excellent for in lay in furniture. I did a counter top for a cabinet maker with a 1/4″ band around it and it looked awesome. I did not have to polish it as a clear coat was used to finish the counter.
    I would love to do a coffee table with matching end tables with a half inch band all the way around, also would make great inlays for a guitars fret board. here is the url for Kyocera http://global.kyocera.com/news/2009/0202_hgus.html
    Justin if this is not ok you can remove this comment I would not want to offend.
    By the way Justin it is me Toby from TAB Opals. I was going to Tucson on Sunday but because of family matters I have had to cancel, was to be there from the 1st through the 8th selling that welo opal. My buddy Tim will be there “Ethiopals” I was really looking forward to finally meeting you in person… maybe next year πŸ™

  • Gerry

    Len had nothing to do with Gilson Created Opal being absent from the market. My company (the oldest in the USA, specializing in Australian opal – more than 75 years at it) also took on the world distribution of Gilson Created Opal about 25 years ago. The reason that Gilson is no longer produced has only to do with the fact that when the USSR broke up, the Russian crystal-growers were out of work for the state. Beryllium, the mineral most responsible for certain weapons production as well as synthesizing a man-made emerald was now available in large enough quantities so that the synthetic emerald meant quick and ready cash to those crystallographers who had access to platinum crucibles and plenty of capacity. When tht happened, a man named Barzoi, living in Thailand and familiar with the Novosibersk scientist-growers, began to contract with them to make and sell him the lab-emerald rough productions. He very quickly captured a huge market, selling his productions fro approximately 1/10th the going price. So, now back to the Gilson Created Opal: This was produced from formulae developed by Pierre Gilson but purchased entirely by Turgil, S.A. a company owned by the Otsuka family corporate entity. Productions of the synthesized opal were but a tiny % of the output of that production facility. The lab-emerald as well as a significant flame-fusion watch dial business are what kept the lights and power on 24/7/365. When the lab-created emerald business went south with the price wars, all the rest of the burden to keep the lights on fell on the flame-fusion sapphire and the lab-created opal business. Soon enough, the Chinese entered the market with a flame-fusion sapphire production, and the Koreans picked up on the milling technology. That resulted in yet another price battle. The only product left standing, still unbeaten by any other productions of a true synthetic opal was the Gilson Created Opal. But the burden of keeping the facility, with all its attendant costs, open fell to the lab opal productions. And, due to a far smaller market demand for just the lab-opal, we all decided to taper off productions. So, about 9 years ago or so, that is exactly what happened. We still had about 200 kgs or so of material in reserve, as well as a large quantity of material we had cut in our various cutting operations across Asia and the USA, but new productions were now shut down and remain so to this day. Much of the equipment was sold off to various entities. That is the whole truth of the history. I can continue to tell you all about the successor productions that now come from Kyocera’s operations in Japan and elsewhere, but that is a long conversation that will come only if you ask for that info. Meantime, I want to stress this point once again: Manning Opal Corporation (d.b.a. Manning International) is the oldest company in America specializing in NATURAL Australian opal productions. Our company began in Australia in 1938. We have a long a storied history on and off the various opal fields. I took over the Gilson Created Opal after several others attempted to market it in the world. I was approached by Turgil’s president some 25 years back. He had known that Pierre Gilson had approached us back in 1975, asking if we wanted the entire production of lab opal, emerald, turquoise, an imitation coral, and various other experimental productions he wanted to pass along. At that time we refused. The Gilson Created Opal had not been completely perfected. It was porous (something like the Ethiopian opal, no matter which field that comes from). In addition to that, the Gilson materials were very costly, and natural opal was still readily available in highly price-competitive rough productions. BUT, 15 years later, the story was very different. Turgil approached us cautiously, knowing that we’d refused an earlier match-up. They wanted to give us the USA productions. We refused. If we built the USA market, we’d also be building the Asian market and thus our own demise. Finally, after months of negotiation, Turgil agreed that we would have 100% of productions, save a tiny amount they would have for vanity-production sales in Japan only. We agreed, and thus Gilson Created Opal became the world-wide staple that you all know of. Our company just sold the last 50 kgs of roughs 2 years ago. Along with that production, we sold all of our cut reserves. There is still Gilson Created Opal in the marketplace but it is rare as hen’s teeth now. The newer productions out there are all from Kyocera. That material, while technically a “synthetic,” is very different from Gilson’s productions. Colors are more static. Material is less vibrant, and the presence of zirconium is far greater in the lattice than any remnant quantities exist in natural opal (or in Gilson for that matter). Yet for those who want a “synthetic” as opposed to a “simulant,” Kyocera’s productions are the only game in town – at least at this point. BUT, Kyocera is making a huge production of the “simulated” opal. This is the material you’ve shown in your image of a rough “black” version. That material is (more or less) as much as 20% polymer resins or other hardeners that hold the lattice together. This material is always flammable, so if you ever want to know if your opal is “fake,” just hold it to a match flame for a period of 5 seconds or so. It will begin to smoke (noxious fumes) and then to burn. If that is the kind of fire you want in your opal, you’ve got it! So, folks, this is the skinny. If anyone wants more information, you can always contact me at: info@manningintl.com

    • Blackopaldirect

      HI Gerry are you at the Tucson Gem show? I would love to meet you if you are here?

    • Richie

      Hi Gerry.
      It’s been awhile since we last spoke. Thanks for your really informative post. A lot of first hand history right there.
      I’m always on the Street, and spoke with Ernie a couple of weeks ago. He asked how you were doing and I said I haven’t had contact with you for a period of time, until now.
      To jog your memory, I’m the guy who showed you two black opals in your then NYC offices which I purchased several years ago, and we had a nice conversation about your Dad and the business. I also installed a Merlin phone for you. I contacted you via email about a year ago. I hope all is well.

      When you have a chance, take a look at my newest ring with the 2.32ct. stone purchased from Justin. I gave Ernie the casting and the stones and he did his magic, as you can see. He recently set another Opal I purchased from Justin, a small crystal for an earring stud, about a month ago. When I’m ready, I have a 3.71ct. to give him.

      Ernie is not only a fantastic Jeweler, he’s a genuinely really nice guy. Whenever I go to see him, we have some nice conversations, not just about jewelery, but about family and life in general. He’s been on the street for 40 years. Amazing.
      Take care Gerry. It’s a small World.

  • Blackopaldirect

    The number is 4 yes most of you got it right. And some needed to watch my videos to find the answers. Thanks for all the comments. Some awesome input and hopefully some people learnt something. The exact and repeating pattern is the dead giveaway.

    • John Sims

      It was too easy, Justin, but it would no doubt fool a lot of people whose contact with real opal is limited.

      • Blackopaldirect

        Yes that was the plan. People who already know about fake opal will have a clue and spot it a mile away. It is a learning curve though for many who do and don’t know opal as well. It can be a deceiving gem.

  • Archie Paulson

    4 looks like a Gilson FAKE.

  • jules

    It is offensive you keep harping on the fact of it being “China” and “Chinese” knockoffs when Gilson/created/lab-made opals are most commonly sold out of the USA and UK. Many US sellers try to pass of synthetics as real opals and I see it all over the web. Opals are seldom retailed in China and if anything, the west is to blame for the proliferation of man-made ones. I am an opal trader myself and I know how frustrating it can be when you have touristy shops in Brisbane also trying to pass off “high-shine” gilsons as genuines, only for the customers then to come to cities like Melbourne and Sydney to complain about the higher prices here (not knowing that what they bought up north was in fact, a knock-off)

    • Blackopaldirect

      HI Jules It does not really matter where the synthetic opal if made it really matters how it is disclosed. Country of origin has no relevance here it is merely stating where it is made. Sorry if this offensive to you. that was not the intent. Their is no blame game. It is up to the individual sellers to do the right thing no matter the culture.

  • Ian

    Do all impostor opals burn when a flame is held to them? Would it shatter a genuine opal if cooled too fast?

    • Blackopaldirect

      Yes it would Ian The resin would smell and start burning. A real opal will crack apart if put in the flame for too long. And it will crack further if cooled in water. The same would happen for non tempered glass.

  • Larry Brink

    100% #4 opal does not form in columns

  • Ursi

    I think no. 4 is the fake. It just looks unnatural. It doesn’t seem to have the same fascination, twinkel as a real opal.
    Opal is a fascinating stone and once you have the privilege to owning one which is one of a kind you become addicted. Thank you Justin for sharing all your percious info with us.

    • Blackopaldirect

      Yes you are correct Ursi and you are most welcome.

  • Lefty

    Gday Justin.
    I’m a keen fossicker, hobby sapphire miner (Rubyvale) and lapidarist but I know little about opal. Recently, a comment was put forward by a senior professional member of a US-based gemmology discussion forum of which I am a member regarding Welo opal vs Aussie opal. The statement was that Aussie opal producers are or should be worried about Welo because it is more beautiful/ generally superior to ours.
    This sounded like more of a personal opinion than a fact so I went looking to see if I could spot the difference. Somebody brought a piece of Welo into our club a while back but I couldn’t see the difference. Looking over the net, I see many very beautiful opals, predominately from Australia. I see some identified as Welo that are truly stunning – but most identified as Welo look nice but I would hardly call them superior to good Lightning ridge stone. I would put the most outstanding-looking Welo about on par with images of top Aussie harlequin (though this is a personal opinion).
    The implication seemed to be that most Welo opals are of truly exceptional quality but what I’m seeing is that exceptional stones are just that – exceptional! I think I see the “digit pattern” difference, with most of ours seeming to not display that pattern but while a lot of the Welo I’ve viewed has it, in most cases it seems a little subdued or only partly there – hardly seems representative of the typical Ethiopian stone. What do you think?

    Anyway, I’m keen to learn more about our national gemstone. I mostly facet but do cab as well so I’m probably set up to have a go. A friend was once an opal miner, though it was boulder opal (Koroit I think the place was called) and used to cut it as well so I can always ask for his help. I have some boulder as part of an old collection but I haven’t had a go at it yet.
    Cheers

    • Blackopaldirect

      HI Lefty thanks for the comments. You have asked very good questions.
      The following is just my opinion.
      Ethiopian opal is a very new type of volcanic/hydrophane opal to the market and has put the Australian sellers into a spin because they are worried it will bring the price of Australian opal down or cause them to loose more opal buyers to this new find. I think it just exposes opal in general to more people making it more popular.(their is millions of people that don’t know about opal still) and I believe that every person will be bias depending on what they are mostly exposed to or sell themselves.

      If you were to compare welo opal to crystal opal in the top end of things it would not be fair as they do have different characteristics and patterns for the most part are also different. Most common or rare colors are also different in the 2 types. Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge miners have had this competition going on for years, which field produces the better crystal opal? Blah blah!

      I am not going to make a public announcement of which opal is better. I would hope that people would think I had a little respect for all people in opal no matter where they come from and the type they sell.

      Ethiopian opal has been a massive contributor to the exposure of the gemstone because of it massive amounts coming out of the ground. Some is gem, some is not just like any other type of opal. the fact that it is hydrophane opal means substances can be absorbed easily therefore can be treated easily also. Which leaves many people wondering if they have a natural or treated opal.

      I my self have been brought up with Lightning Ridge black opal in my blood from my fathers teachings so I am a little bias mainly because he taught me everything I know. Ethiopian opal came on the market only a few years before my father had passed away. So we only did a small amount of experimenting. My father bought some here and there to play around with which manly led to cracking and I would say it would have been due to the way he cut the opal. Nowadays people have found better ways to cut the Ethiopian opal for more yield and less cracking.

      A question for Ethiopian sellers I have is.. When they sell a welo opal in a piece of jewellery and the consumer gets it wet the stone can change to clear then back to white once dried it can stay white or go back to its original condition. What do you say to customers when this happens and they think their opal is not the same? This is really one of the only reasons I don’t sell the opal and the fact it can be treated easily. But still is a beautiful gemstone.

      Many seller around the world don’t really get to see some of the best black opal that comes from Australia and can’t really compare it until they see for themselves. Just like I am not seeing a lot of Ethiopian opal.

      So to round up what I think. I don’t think this is about the competition which is the better opal. People will choose for themselves by the colors they like, the clarity and their budget and the values speak for themselves. If an opal is super bright and catches the eye of the person looking for one then they may buy it.

      Personal opinions can really get in the way especially to do with opal as no opal is the same just like no person is the same.

      • Lefty

        Well I just saw two photo of some faceted Ethiopian opal a few days apart – first photo was nearly transparent with some colour play, next photo the stone had turned almost completely milk-white.

  • Colin W MacDiarmid

    4 obviously

  • 2adirondack4u

    I caught this after the real answer was given but didn’t take notice( Didn’t want to.) I was told by an expert that; A Lab opal will be the one w/ repetitive pattern and stacked perimeter.It’s how they’re made. So my guess was correct at #4. I’m a hobbyist so I have to be extra careful often paying more from legit dealers like BlackOpaldirect. It’s worth it. I’m not an expert won’t pretend. not prof trained I set genuine gemstones BUT; every once in a while I find something that could be a good deal. Make sure you can return it. Never send cash, I check SG/RI polarity and have an old dualy microscope.

  • Sharon Gulezian

    I say 4 is the fake opal.

  • AGNESINA POZZI

    Fake is the number 4

  • Lemony Snicket

    I believe it is #6

  • Aurachat Kheawsawat

    no. 4 is surely fake

  • Ann Topmiller

    Based on a video that I just watched…number 4 is undoubtedly the lab created stone.