Great question. So let's talk briefly about Opals.
Opals have been a popular gemstone dating to at least the days of the Roman Empire. This colorful gem with variations on play of color is mesmerizing, and connoisseurs globally treasure this very fine gem amongst their collections of the world's finest gemstones. Those born in October prize the Opal as their traditional Birthstone.
Since the late 19th Century most Opals have been mined in Australia, and the several Australian Opal mines such as Lighting Ridge have become synonymous with exquisite White, Crystal, and Black Opals. Other Opals in the marketplace include Opals from Ethiopia, which are distinct and apart from Australian Opals, and which we will not discuss at this time.
Here we will briefly discuss three forms of Opal commonly found in the fine jewelry marketplace.
Solid Opals. These are Opals that have been earth mined and prepared as a gemstone, usually in Cabochon or Free Form. What you see, top to bottom, side is side, is natural Opal without further fabrication or "engineering."
Opal Doublets. A Doublet is natural opal which has been cemented to a backing. The purpose of the backing could be to strengthen the structural integrity of the gem, or to enhance its color. Common backing include Ironstone, Obsidian, dyed Chalcedony, Glass, or Plastic. Hence the name "Doublet" results from the gemstone having two layers. The topmost portion of the Doublet, however, is Solid Opal.
A dark backing can enhance the natural beauty of Black Opals and emphasize their play of color. A beautiful White or Black Opal Doublet can be purchased for significantly less than a Solid White or Black Opal, and yet many find the coloration and presentation to be almost indistinguishable from their Solid Opal counterparts. Many fine pieces of Opal Jewelry are created using Doublets, and they remain a popular choice by many.
Opal Triplets. Like the Doublet, the Opal Triplet is Opal that is cemented to a backing. The Opal Triplet, however, usually employs only the thinnest "slice" of natural Opal. After cementing the Opal slice to the backing, a cap, usually plastic, is then cemented atop the slice. Hence the name Triplet results from the gemstone having three layers.
Triplets can have as little as 10% of their weight being natural Opal, the rest being the backing material and plastic cap. Triplets are not highly regarded by collectors, and often find their way into "Opal" Jewelry on the lower end of the spectrum. Opal Triplets can be purchased for the smallest fraction of the cost of natural Opals, or even Opal Doublets.
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