Opal Fakes - What are they & how to tell if an Opal is fake



In this day and age there unfortunately is quite a bit of forgery around. When purchasing an Opal although it is a shame to say it, you do need to be a little careful. Keep reading and you will know all about Synthetic or ‘Gibson’ Opals, and also be on your way to knowing how to spot fake opals & identify that your Opal is real!


The first step is to know if your Opal is solid or is a doublet or triplet. These are not completely fake Opal but rather a combination of both real opal & synthetic material to give the impression it is solid opal. Here is how opal doublets & opal triplets are constructed from a side on view:

So how do you spot if your opal is a doublet or a triplet. Here are some stand out factors:

Body Tone:

Check to see if the Opal is transparent or if it has a white body tone. If it does then you can be pretty sure it is a genuine solid opal. Most probably a white opal or crystal opal. If it has a dark body then there is a possibility it is a doublet or triplet as they have a black artificial backing which causes a dark body tone.

Side View of the Opal:

When you look at the side of the opal check to see if it has distinct visible ‘layers’. Opal doublets are a slice of Opal attahced to a black backing while a triplet has this backing but also a third layer which is a clear, domed layer on top of the opal.

The Back of the Opal:

Next check the back of the Opal. If it looks like it has a black or grey hardish plastic coating then it most probably is a Triplet as they are often glued onto black plastic glass or vitrolite backing. A Doublet is a little harder to spot as the backing is more often a piece of natural potch (black, colourless opal) or ironstone (boulder opal host rock). The best way to tell if it is a doublet is by checking if the join between the opal and the backing is perfectly flat or curved and bumpy. Man made joins will be flat due to the two sections needing to be glued together while natural formation creates an uneven join.

Top of the Opal:

Finally if the top of the Opal looks glassy then you most probably have a triplet. Triplets are capped with hard clear plastic or quartz, so the top of the opal reflects differently to that of natural opal. Also, if you can see through the top of the opal from a side view, you are probably looking at a triplet.


If your opal becomes ‘cloudy’ after a while, you are probably have an Opal triplet or doublet. This cloudiness happens when a triplet or doublet has been worn in water over a long period of time, causing the glue between the layers to deteriorate and allow water penetration.


This is Opal that has been created in Laboratory. This synthetic opal can be very difficult to identify, if you haven’t had a lot of experience. What usually gives Gibson Opal away is by looking closely at the pattern of the Opal. If it has been created in a laboratory the pattern will display bright colours in large patches of colour.

The pattern is often ‘too perfect’ and ordered, and can also often display a ‘snakeskin’ pattern. The best way to avoid any of these problems is to always try to buy from somebody who has gemmological qualifications. Reputable dealers are accountable to their gemmological associations and may also be members of a jeweller’s or opal association.

Please note, triplets, doublets, or synthetic opals can be a great affordable substitute for natural opal. However, you should always be aware of what you are purchasing, to avoid being overcharged or misled.

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