About synthetic opal
Facts about created opal.
- What is Synthetic opal?
- How is Synthetic opal visibly different to natural opal?
- Why should I buy a Synthetic opal jewelry?
Man made opal can have many aliases.
It can be referred to by some of the following names and terms.
Synthetic opal, lab opal, created opal, Gilson opal, imitation opal, to name a few. On our website we use the terms “synthetic” or “created” to describe our opals.
The fact is they are all manufactured by man under laboratory conditions. This shouldn’t be a surprise as other gemstones such as sapphire and emerald to name just two, have been manufactured in laboratories for years. In fact many sapphires sold in jewellery stores today are advertised as “created.”
Most created gemstones contain the common elements that occur in natural gemstones and this applies to Synthetic opal. One common element missing in synthetic opal however, is water. This is in fact a bonus to the synthetic opal as the absence of water makes the synthetic opal much more durable and harder than the natural occurring opal.
The first person to create opal was a Frenchman by the name of Pierre Gilson and he did so in 1974. Gilson opal is still a name widely recognized as being created opal. Since then there have been other methods introduced. One is to add a polymer substance (glue) which helps bind the silica spheres which make up opal.
So what usually takes millions of years in nature to create can now be done over a number of months in a laboratory.
How is Synthetic opal visibly different to natural opal?
The first thing you will notice in a synthetic opal is that they have a very regular pattern. Some natural opal can contain a very regular pattern but this is rare and if you found one with the regular pattern and brightness of a synthetic opal it would be very valuable indeed.
Another observation you will make (as mentioned above) with synthetic opal is the brilliant play of color or “fire” in the opal.
Lab opal is created in large chunks which will have a consistent color and pattern throughout. No two natural occurring opals will be the same in pattern and color where as with created opal you can make as many near identical pieces of jewelry as you like.
Why should I buy synthetic opal jewelry?
Synthetic opal jewelry is an excellent alternative to natural opal jewelry for a number of reasons.
The first to spring to mind is the beautiful array of colors and patterns that are displayed in very rare natural opal are readily available in created opal. The synthetic opal is much more durable and harder than its natural counterpart so breakages and longevity are also a plus. Finally, the price. You can obtain a beautiful piece of opal jewelry for a fraction of the cost.
NB. We freely advertise our jewelry as containing synthetic opal, and most reputable retailers would not try and pass off a synthetic opal as being natural. So if you are shopping for a natural opal keep an open mind but remember that there is no great fraudulent activities taking place out there which you would need to be concerned with.