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What is an Opal Doublet and how can I tell?

How can you tell whether an opal is a doublet or completely natural?

There are a lot of opal and opal jewelry sellers out there, but how can you tell what if you’re paying for is natural opal?

First, let’s chat about why someone would make an opal doublet in the first place.

Doublets are usually made to make a piece of opal, or opal jewelry, look like it’s worth more than it actually is. They blacken the back of opal which enhances its color bar making the opal look more expensive. The catch here is that as soon as opal is reinforced its value can be reduced.

To make a doublet, a piece of potch (common opal with no play of color) is glued to the back of the opal to create the illusion of a blacker body tone.

How can I tell if an opal is natural or a doublet?

You’ll need a loop (a small magnifying tool, check out Justin’s workshop tour to see what he uses) and a bright light source. Take the opal in question, hold it to the light source and look through your loop. You’ll need to check the edges of the opal for a glue line; this line will be straight and you may be able to see the glue itself.

Some completely natural black opals can have a straight line between the color bar and the potch although it will never be perfect. Natural opal will have some areas where the potch and the color bar bleed into each other, even slightly.

What if it’s been set in jewelry?

This can make spotting a doublet tricky! Try shining a torch brightly into the top of the opal and look for glue lines or bubbles. Failing that, a jeweller can unset your opal for you so that you can see the full piece.

What’s a triplet?

You might have a natural opal, you could have a doublet, but you also might have a triplet! The difference between a doublet and a triplet is that a triplet has three layers instead of two (shocking!).

Where doublets have potch and the opal color bar, triplets have a third layer. This third layer is quartz that has been cut into a cabochon to magnify the thin color bar beneath it. You will be able to spot the glue in triplets the same as doublets.

We hope that you enjoy this weeks video!