Get a Bang for Your Buck - How to Understand what Opal is Worth

This magnificent stone, proudly worn as jewelry for thousands of years, became globally popular after it was found in vast quantity in Australia. Up to recently there was no common method to determine the value of opals. However, the good thing is a fact that opals can be cut in many different ways to satisfy the customers with deep and the rest of us with not so deep pocket.

Many factors play an important role in determining the value of this precious gemstone.


The value of an opal depends on the type, brilliance, color pattern, body tone, play of color, size, soundness and faults. The price of the gem depends on its quality and is expressed as a price per unit of weight, i.e. carat. There is big value difference between the uncut opal and the one that is cut and polished. Let's not forget the influence of supply and demand to the opal’s value.

First thing in understanding how much an opal is worth is its class. There are three types of opal - solid opals, doublets and triplets. In general, doublets and triplets are less valuable than solid opal because they contain smaller percentage of natural opal. For example, doublets possess only 5 to 10 percent of the value of an equivalent solid opal. In some cases, high quality handmade triplets can be more expensive than a solid opal of lower quality.

One of the most important factors in the valuation of opals is the body tone. It is the background color viewed from the top. Base colors of the opals can be white, clear, orange, gray and black. Black or dark opal is more valuable than white or light opal. Generally, opals with dark body color are more valuable.

The play of color in the stone or brightness of fire is also important when determining the value of a gemstone. Opals can be single or multiple colored. Among all colors, red fire is the rarest one therefore it’s more valuable than green, orange and blue opal. However, the clarity of the color is critical, so that brilliant blue or green opal can cost more than dull red. Multicolor opals, although containing two or more colors, always have one dominant color.

Color pattern makes every single opal unique. This is why you can't find two identical opals anywhere in the world. Harlequin, Flagstone, Ribbon, Straw, Chinese Writing, Picture stones are excellent patterns. Harlequin pattern is the most valuable of all for it’s extremely rare. This pattern contains colors arranged like a mosaic or checker board squares. Second class patterns include Floral, Rolling Flash, Broad Flash and Pinfire pattern. Floral is one of the most common of all good patterns.

High quality precious opals are free from flaws, cracks, potch lines, webbing and grey lines. Any of these faults can decrease opals value.

However the value of an opal can be measured differently – from a personal point of view. Even common opal can be priceless if it’s precious to you.

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