With online shopping more popular than ever, ensuring you get exactly what you pay for – and don’t over pay – is top of mind for everyone. We’ve all heard stories of a friend or relative buying off an online marketplace or e-commerce website only to receive an inferior or fake product – that’s if anything arrives at all. Our time and money have never been more valuable, so when shopping online for opal jewellery it’s vital you not only have a great experience and have confidence in what you’re purchasing, but also that you’re not being scammed.
Some of the common questions asked by Black Star Opal customers are: Are your opals real? Will I receive what I pay for? How do I know if this is the best price I can pay? We understand. With a plethora of online opal jewellery retailers out there, as well as thousands of new and second-hand opal jewellery listings on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, Etsy and Amazon, it’s hard to know exactly who to trust. And believe us, we’ve seen it all when it comes to inflated prices, fake opal, phoney sales, bad photography, misleading product descriptions, and dodgy sellers.
The opal world can be a bit of a mystery and tricky to navigate if you’re not aware of what to ask, what to buy, or what’s real or not. Unfortunately, not all opal sellers are honest or ethical in their business practices. So educating our customers, establishing trust, and ensuring confidence in purchasing natural Australian opals and opal jewellery are high priorities for us (along with providing exceptional products and customer service). To help you feel more confident with your next opal jewellery purchase, we’ve compiled some top tips to avoid being scammed or misled.
1. Understand the different types of opal
Knowledge is power when it comes to opals. We can’t tell you how many times a customer will look to buy opal jewelry but not know the difference between a solid opal, a doublet opal or a triplet opal – or that different types of opals even exist! Thankfully there are many online articles about opals on the internet, so a quick Google search should clear up any confusion and provide a bit of opal education to help you understand what to look for and that you will pay more - or less - depending on what kind of opal it is.
Generally as a rule, solid opals are more valuable than doublet opals and triplet opals, however pricing an opal also depends on carat weight (size) quality, colour, patterning, and, when it comes to jewellery, what type of metal the opal is set in. Black opals are typically more expensive than white or crystal opals, and boulder opal can be high or low depending on the quality. So a solid black opal will usually be more expensive than a doublet or a solid white opal. But, as there are varying factors involved in pricing opal, you can find doublet opal jewellery worth more than solid opal jewellery.
We recommend avoiding e-commerce sites that sell items other than opal jewellery when shopping for your opal engagement ring or opal earrings. We’ve seen fake opal jewellery listed on several big name e-commerce sites that sell everything from children’s toys to hair straighteners. But we’ve also seen online jewellery stores that also sell fake opal jewellery that has not been clearly identified in the product heading, but buried deep in the product description (if at all). Again, a misleading practice designed to make the customer believe they’re purchasing genuine opal when it’s not.
Make sure the websites you trust have clearly labelled whether the opal gemstone is a solid, doublet or triplet opal and it’s not just listed generically as ‘opal’. At Black Star Opal, we always list the opal type clearly in the heading of each product, and then again in the product description. We also provide a short description about the type of opal, or link to a page which contains this, on all our product pages so the customer knows exactly what they are buying. If an online retailer is not doing this, ask exactly what type of opal is in the opal jewellery before purchasing.
2. Only buy from reputable opal jewellery sellers
We have never seen so much opal gemstones and opal jewellery sold online as we have today. With the power of the internet and social media, anyone from anywhere in the world can retail opal products. And while there can be some amazing bargains and excellent opal to be found, customers need to be on their toes and aware of who is selling, if they are reputable and honest, if the opal is real or fake, and if you will get what you pay for.
We are members of various opal sales Facebook pages and, while most people will do the right thing, it’s concerning to see posts warning about sellers who are scammers, buyers who are not educated in opal being taken advantage of, and listings with hugely inflated prices, cracked or damaged opal stones, or jewellery containing fake opal. Fake opal is found all over the world – even here in Australia - and it can be incredibly difficult to discern if you don’t know what to look for. Even experts find it hard at times to tell if an opal is fake from just a photograph.
To ensure you can shop with confidence and know you’ll receive quality, genuine Australian opal and opal jewellery, we recommend only buying from established and reputable sellers and retailers, are ideally Australia-based (Australia produces 95% of the world’s commercial opal gemstones and it is our national gemstone), and possibly members of opal or jewellery organisations. Also, be wary when buying from online marketplaces, especially when it comes to second-hand opal jewellery, where what can seem like a bargain could turn out to be stolen inventory, fake or not as described.
So when shopping, remember to ask the questions: How long has the seller been in business? Are they an established opal jewellery seller or just listing a few pieces on Facebook or Ebay? Do they have an e-commerce site with secure payments for buyer protection? Do they have a return and refund policy? Do they offer a range of payment options including PayPal? Is there a bricks and mortar retail store attached to the business as well? Is online customer support available?
Do they mine their own opals or source from a network of opal miners? Do they have genuine five-star reviews? Are products listed accurately with clear and detailed descriptions? Do they offer certificates of authenticity? Is the photography or video of the item clear and top quality? These questions could help save you a lot of money and heartache if it turns out the item is not genuine and you are scammed.
3. It pays to shop around
So how do you know you’re getting the best price when it comes to what you will pay for opal jewellery? One of the best ways is to look at a few opal jewellery websites, and not just the first one listed in your Google search. Did you know when it comes to online shopping, most browsers will only visit the first listing on Google? And that’s if you can get past all the sponsored ads. However, there are lots of great opal retailers out there. So it pays to not just always click and shop on the first website you see, but compare multiple reputable opal websites to familiarise yourself with sellers, prices and products.
When it comes to pricing, one questionable practice we’ve seen some online opal jewellery shops engage in is to run ongoing ‘fake sales’. This is where a large range of products are seemingly on sale but have hugely inflated prices to begin with. And the sale price can still higher than what you should really pay. So customers think they're getting a big discount, when in reality they are being misled and still over paying. If you see almost every opal jewellery item listed with a sale price, or everything is always on sale, it could be a marketing tactic to fool you into thinking you’re getting a bargain. Again, compare with other websites to decide if the sale is genuine or not.
Lastly, beware opal jewelry valuations if a seller is using the replacement value to price an item, which does happen with second-hand opal jewellery on social media. Typically, jewellery valuations are used for insurance purposes and contain inflated replacement values which do not reflect an accurate resale price. And not all valuers are knowledgeable about opal, even in Australia, so pricing – and even descriptions - may not be accurate. If you are looking to purchase an item based on a valuation, please look around and ask those who know about pricing opal if the item is as described and the asking price reasonable. Or consult a valuer who is knowledgable in Australian opal.
We hope these tips help you shop with more confidence and understanding of what to do and ask when buying an opal engagement ring, opal necklace or other piece of opal jewellery. If you have any questions about opal pricing at Black Star Opal, please get in touch and we’re only too happy to assist you with your query and purchase.