So you love opal jewellery but don't know much about it or how to find the perfect piece for you? Well, with more than 35 years designing, sourcing and selling this beautiful, unique accessory (and 50-plus years in the Australian opal industry) we've learnt a thing or two about this captivating gem and the best ways to wear it.
As with most precious gemstones, opal set in silver, gold or platinum is available in many designs and price points. From elegant black opal jewellery, which can be the most expensive kind of opal you will find on the market, or an eye-catching opal ring at the tips of your fingers, jewellery with opal can suit all tastes, budgets and occasions.
To find out more, read on for our ultimate guide to the most popular types of opal jewellery you can buy.
BLACK OPAL JEWELLERY
The rare and magnificent Lighting Ridge black opal is one of the most popular types of opal high end jewellery designers around the world turn to when selecting Australia's national gemstone for their stunning creations. The spectrum of vibrant colours and patterns found in this opal is unparalleled. Characterised by its dark body tone, Australian black opal sourced from mines in the outback town of Lightning Ridge is renowned as one of the most precious and valuable types on earth.
Popular Lightning Ridge opal jewellery styles feature brilliantly coloured round or oval cabochon cut black opal rings handcrafted in fine white or yellow gold. For something a little 'extra', these pieces can be illuminated by sparkling diamonds set in a halo around the stone or along the ring band. Black opal earrings are also a very sought after jewellery style, with studs or drops equally as desired, just as long as they feature bright, vivid colours and bold black body tones.
Black opals can also be cut and polished into freeform shapes with flowing and undulating surfaces, making the most of the gemstone’s colour, patterns and size. Jewellers today are loving these unique organic shapes, mainly for pendants and rings, where other coloured gemstones can feature alongside the opal to add even more opulence to the design.
A Lightning Ridge black opal set into an 18ct yellow gold ring.
BOULDER OPAL JEWELLERY
The opal world's newest darling, boulder opal is mainly found west of the state, beautiful Queensland boulder opal is rich in colour, making it a very popular option for opal jewellery. Although similar in appearance to Lightning Ridge black opal thanks to its dark body type, it forms inside cavities in brown-red toned ‘boulders’, or ironstone, and this host rock is sometimes contained within the opal giving it an earthy look and feel.
Natural boulder opal is a favourite among elite jewellers and is usually freeform shaped. Ideal for rings and necklaces, boulder opal can also come in a 'split', meaning the two halves can be matched to create a pair of earrings. Boulder opal jewellery can also feature sparkling diamonds or other colourful gemstones to complement the stone.
WHITE OPAL JEWELLERY
Found mainly in Coober Pedy and Mintabie in South Australia, as well as White Cliffs in New South Wales, white opal has a milky, opaque body tone and a softer, more pastel range of colours that still sparkle brightly. There are many options when it comes to solid white opal jewelry including a white opal ring set in fine white or yellow gold, earrings surrounded by sparkling crystals, or a necklace which can be a single pendant or a necklet featuring many of these beautiful gemstones.
CRYSTAL OPAL JEWELLERY
As with white opals, crystal opals are found at Coober Pedy in South Australia, and also at Lightning Ridge and White Cliffs in New South Wales. Crystal opals are comparable to white opals in appearance as they are a lighter stone, however the have a transparent or translucent body colour which allows light to pass through the stone. Crystal opals are popular in opal jewellery for their colourful iridescence, often times displaying vivid flashes of blue and green.
Tips For Choosing The Best Real Opal Jewellery
Quality opal jewelry should last a lifetime - and like a piece of amazing artwork, can be passed down the family from generation to generation. When you want to buy real opal, think about these features - quality, cut, colour, clarity - and affordability. Hopefully the below tips will help your decision making process to choose the best opal jewellery for you.
1. Keep Your Budget In Mind
When investing in real Australian opal rings and other jewelry, it's important to consider your budget as each piece can vary greatly in price depending on the size, rarity and quality of the opals and the type of metal used. Larger and higher-quality stones show more play of colour and have striking patterning. A quality opal piece should be considered a purchase for a lifetime, so weigh up all factors before settling on how much you're willing, and able, to pay.
2. Quality And Settings Are Important
At Black Star Opal, we hand select or hand craft every single piece of jewellery we sell. We always ensure jewellery settings are secure and hold the opal in place firmly, and also check the cut of the gemstone. It's important that it has an even shape and a smooth polished finish. There is also a close examination of how colour is distributed throughout the stone as the more flashes of multi-coloured pattern the opal displays, the higher its value. And lastly, it's very important to look for any damage or cracking, as this can significantly reduce the value of real opals for sale.
Settings also impact a gemstone's appeal and value, so it's best to choose real opal jewellery that are set to enhance the stone's natural characteristics and play of colour. Both shiny silver and gold can bring out its full range of colourful iridescence, allowing the opal sparkle with a beautiful rainbow hue. You can also select from different settings to showcase the gemstone and your individual style, including bezels, prongs, pave settings and halo settings.
3. Know Who You Are Buying From
In addition to our shopping website, we have an opal and crystal shop called The Opal Centre at Coffs Harbour's famous Big Banana Fun Park, where we serve tens of thousands of customers each year. We offer a 30 day returns policy on unworn and undamaged opal pieces, and all purchases over $1000 are insured for shipping. And remember - sadly there is a great deal of fake opal jewellery out there, at crazy low prices. So if it looks too good to be true then it probably is.