Opal Patterns


Opal patterns refer to the shapes, sizes and objects or flakes of color shown in any type of play of color. An opal pattern does not have to be an exact science and is not always an exact match against the pattern type — although there needs to be an alikeness to the pattern examples.

Describing Opal Patterns

Usually, when describing the patterns within an opal the dominant pattern is referred to first then the secondary pattern. Generally, only the two dominant patterns are mentioned in a description as you can normally find many more patterns in most opals if you look very closely.

As an example, if you were to examine an opal and can see that it has a prominent flagstone and chaff pattern, whichever is the most dominant pattern will be named first (flagstone) followed by the secondary pattern (chaff), resulting in a flagstone/chaff pattern.

The one exemption to this rule applies to the harlequin pattern. A harlequin pattern must be in a checkerboard pattern of squares over 80% of the finished gem and the squares must be 80% even to be considered a harlequin pattern — otherwise, it would be considered a flagstone pattern.

Known Patterns

  • Pinfire
  • Flagstone
  • Harlequin
  • Chaff
  • Floral
  • Broadflash
  • Moss
  • Ribbon
  • Cloverleaf
  • Palette
  • Asteria
  • Picture Stone
  • Flag
  • Straw
  • Script
  • Striated
  • Mackerel
  • Flame

All these patterns can be displayed in opal and in the same gem at the same time.


Flagstone Pattern

Moss Pattern

ribbon pattern

Ribbon Pattern

Cloverleaf Pattern

Cloverleaf Pattern

Straw Pattern

Floral Pattern

Broadflash Pattern

chaff pattern

Chaff Pattern

Striated Pattern

Script Pattern

Harlequin Pattern


Pinfire Pattern

3D Color on Color

3D color on color (a term coined by our very own Justin) refers to the thickness of the color bar and the depth of the patterns that exist — opals can achieve a depth of field like no other gemstone. Color on color means one pattern can be over the top of another pattern displaying depth with play of color. Many opals will have a mixture of pattern types and depths and most gems will show a combination of patterns — this is what makes opals so unique.

Justin explains…

Australian Opal patterns explained

Check out our most recent video where Justin takes a light-hearted approach to describing opal patterns and in particular the elusive harlequin.

The opal journey from mine to you

How can you be sure you have an Australian-mined opal?

We discuss knowing where your opal comes from and the story of its unearthing.

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