Loose Opals: Everything You Need to Know Before Making Your Purchase

Opals are exquisite gemstones that are highly prized for their unique colour and beauty. If you're considering purchasing loose opals, it's essential to have a good understanding of these gemstones to make an informed decision. In this guide, we will explore everything you need to know before buying loose opals, including their characteristics, types, and factors to consider.

Opals are prized for their distinct characteristics, loose opals are no exception. It is important to be knowledgeable of what qualities to look for in an opal so that you can be properly informed.

Opal's Play Of Colour

One of the most distinctive features of opals is their play of colour. This phenomenon occurs when light is diffracted and dispersed, creating a vibrant display of spectral colours. The play of colour can range from fiery reds, oranges, and yellows to cool blues, greens, and purples. Some opals also exhibit patterns, which are formed by the way the silica spheres are arranged within the stone. These patterns can be geometric, abstract, or even resemble objects or landscapes.

Opal Patterns

When choosing an opal with a distinct pattern, it is important to look for stones that have well-defined and symmetrical patterns, as this will ensure that the beauty of the pattern is showcased to its fullest potential. It is also important to choose high-quality stones that have been properly cut and polished, as this will enhance the stone's overall brilliance and shine.

Transparency Of Opals

The transparency of opals is a significant factor that should be considered. Some opals are translucent, allowing light to partially pass through, while others are more opaque. The level of transparency can affect the overall appearance and value of the opal.

Body Tone Of An Opal

The body tone of an opal is a title referring to a stone's underlying colour, ranging from white to black. It influences the overall appearance and intensity of the play of colour. Opals with darker body tones tend to showcase the play of colours more vividly.

Types Of Loose Opals

Solid Opals

These are opals that consist entirely of precious opal material. They are highly valued and prized for their vibrant play of colour.

Doublet Opals

Doublet opals are composed of a thin slice of precious opal glued onto a backing material, often black potch or ironstone. This enhances the opal's appearance and durability.

Triplet Opals

Triplet opals are similar to doublet opals but with an additional protective layer of clear quartz or glass on top. This adds extra protection and depth to the opal's play of colour.


When buying loose opals, it can be quite easy to get lost in the mesmerising colours and patterns. Although it is important to consider the above specifications, there are usually a large number of external factors that are not considered. 

Quality - A combination of the aforementioned features can allow for a good estimate of a gemstone's quality. Assess the opal's play of colour, brightness, and intensity. Look for vibrant and evenly distributed colours. Additionally, consider factors like transparency, pattern, and body tone to determine the opal's overall quality.

Authenticity - Ensure that the loose opal you are purchasing is genuine and not a synthetic or imitation stone. Buy from reputable sources or seek professional authentication.

Size and Shape - Consider your desired size and shape for the loose opal. Opals come in various cuts, including oval, round, pear, and freeform shapes. Choose a size and shape that suits your preferences and intended use.

Budget - Set a budget before purchasing loose opals and explore options within your price range. Keep in mind that the quality, size, and rarity of the opal will impact its price.

Setting - Decide whether you want to purchase just the loose opal or if you prefer it to be set in a piece of jewellery, such as a ring, pendant, or earrings. Consider the compatibility of the opal with different settings and choose one that enhances its beauty.

Purchasing loose opals can be an exciting and rewarding experience. By understanding the characteristics, types, and factors to consider, you can confidently select the perfect opal for your collection or jewellery piece.

Remember to prioritise quality, authenticity, and your personal preferences when making your purchase. Whether you choose a solid opal, doublet opal, or triplet opal, the mesmerising play of colour in loose opals is sure to captivate and delight for years to come.