Cultured Opal (Opalite) vs. Pure Opal

cultured opal vs pure opal

Ever wondered what the difference is between cultured opal and pure opal? Well, cultured opals are beautifully synthetic and pure opals are all natural. The differences between cultured and pure opals can usually only be distinguished by a certified gemologist. Cultured opals, often referred to as opalite, are created in laboratories. Pure opals that occur in nature take many years to develop. Mines of natural opals are found across the globe. In the Southwest United States, there are naturally occurring opal fields that are mined. The artisans of Pink Camel Boutique, along with the owner DeeDee Hawash, are producing handcrafted one of a kind pieces with beautiful, naturally sourced opal inlays; they also have opalite jewelry.

Romance of the Opal

The Opal, birthstone for all those born in the month of October, has enchanted people since the middle ages. Romans believed an Opal to be most powerful because it contained a multitude of colors; as if all gemstones were combined into one powerful stone. A novel, Anne of Geirstein, written by Sir Walter Scott and published in 1829, damaged the opal’s reputation by associating it with bad luck or even death. Many Americans believe it is bad luck to wear an opal if it is not your birthstone. However, in the 21st century, modern women are setting aside superstitions and the Opal is growing in popularity.

Cultured Opal vs. Pure Opal: How are they created and how to spot one?

When considering an investment in fine opal jewelry, there are a few basic facts. Opals come in differing forms. They do not all have the same color like most gemstones. Many people want to understand how opals are created naturally. Silica is a key factor because a natural opal’s silica is what creates the vibrant colors. Some opals are colorless. Most, have a core blue coloring with shades of yellows, oranges, greens, browns, reds, and blacks flowing through them. The spectacular uniqueness of each opal makes them highly sought after gems.

To spot a natural opal, pure opal, it will be slightly transparent and have a body tone that is white. Being able to spot natural opals by eye is not easy. The best way to know what you are purchasing is to have it examined by a certified expert gemologist. Opals have two different types that occur in nature. When found in nature, an opal is classified as either a precious opal or a common opal.

Naturally Forming Opals Found

Opals can be found in many locations across the globe. The main sources of the natural opals in North America are from either Mexico or Virgin Valley, NV; these two areas are known globally for the quality of opals that can be found naturally occurring. Australia and Ethiopia are the other two main areas with large naturally occurring opal fields. Brazil and Idaho also have opal fields with naturally occurring opals. Miners seek out these spots through the assistance of geologists and high technology in order to bring high-quality precious stones to market.

The naturally occurring opals across the globe vary and are known by differing names. In Australia, the world’s largest opal producer, they have a small opal field that produces Andamooka opals. The most well-known opals are Black Opals. Black opals come mainly from Australia and have a dark body color with brilliant sparkling colors. Dark opals are actually a different category than black opals because they are not dark enough to be considered black opals they are called “semi-black” or Dark Opal. White Fire Opals are the traditional version of opal people imagine; white in color with beautiful milky tones of brilliant blues, pinks, greens, and other colors.

Opalite Man-made Opal vs. Nature’s Opal Creation

An Opalite is simply a fancy word for a man-made opal. An opalite is actually glass so there will be a few signs when examining a stone to see if it’s man-made. First, if you see anything resembling a bubble it’s clearly an opalite. Second, using a light and dark background you can check to see how it’s appearance might change. A dark background will give away an opalite by making it appear blue. A light background gives away the opalite by giving the appearance of pink, milky white, or possibly an orangish color.

It is the silicon dioxide that helps a pure opal to form deep within the earth. Water runs through the sandstone taking the silica and depositing it. The water evaporates, the water returns, and the process repeats. Over many years this natural process creates what we call a Pure Opal.

However, while we understand opals to some degree it is important to note that research is still pursuing answers. There are still many questions about the chemical conditions that create natural opals and as scientists study some believe microbes or acidic conditions may impact the creation of opals. However they come to be, Opals are enchanting birthstones.

Just the Facts

Cultured and Simulated Opals are both lab created. While a cultured, lab created opal, will be identical to a natural opal, a simulated opal won’t have identical chemical and physical properties. A mosaic opal comes from chips left over after an opal is cut. Then, there’s opal’s called doublets or triplets because they are partially real and partially man-made through layering. Pink Camel Boutique is proud to bring you the highest quality cultured opal in many of our inlay pieces.

At Pink Camel Boutique, you can always find handcrafted designs of sterling silver jewelry that include brilliant colors of cultured opal inlay combined with many other gemstones like turquoise and black jade. The variety of artists who use cultured opals to create brilliant opal inlay jewelry are unique to the Southwest United States. The artists who display their Southwestern jewelry at the Pink Camel Boutique invite you to come to see the newest pieces and be sure to check out our cultured Opal!


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