How Precious Opals are Graded, Valued & Appraised
Precious Opal Facts You Need to Know
You can Quickly Learn the Basics of Opal Grading before Buying!
You can't become an Opal Expert in a few minutes. But You Can ......
1. - See the simple basics of Precious Opal grading here.
2. - Understand why one Opal is worth more than another.
3. - Make better buying decisions for a Precious Opal or Opal jewelry.
4. - Avoid costly mistakes of buying Opals incorrectly identified by the seller.
5. - Know more about Precious Opals than almost anyone in your town or city.
Valuing Precious Opals (vs. ordinary gemstones)
Most gemstones are graded with a Gem microscope and other instruments that examine the tiniest details inside the gemstone or
diamond and the angles of each facet on the outside surface of the gem.
You can't see this with the unaided eye. So you have to
depend upon an appraisal certificate from a gemological testing company or a certified gemologist.
Most of the Valuing of Precious Opals can be done with a minimum of equipment:
* - 'direct sunlight' or a consistent continuous spectrum light source (5000 degrees K)
* - The charts and information you are reading here
* - Your eyes
(To become an Opal Expert/Specialist and be able to make worthwhile appraisals of Precious Opals, you must regularly view at least
hundreds of Opals per month.)
The 12 Factors To VALUE PRECIOUS OPALS
- Colors seen in the Precious 'Play-Of-Color'
- - The Flash or Pattern to the 'Play-Of-Color'
- - The "B" Number - Brightness of the 'Play-Of-Color'
- - The "N" Number - the Opal's background or Base Density
- - The "S" Number - the Color Saturation or Intensity of Color
- - The viewing angles where 'P-O-C' can be seen
- - Percentage of the opal's surface with 'P-O-C'
- - Size (25.4 mm = 1 inch) and Carat Weight
- - Freeform or Calibrated shape
- - Flaws - 'clay', matrix, polish, surface flaws
- - Country, Region, Location where the Opal was mined or manmade opal
- - The value of the Jewelry setting including other gemstones
Always pick an Opal that you "fall in love with".
Would you like a printable copy of this 'Opal Grading Guide' to have when you look at Precious Opals? Send an email requesting your copy.
Get Your Copy - - Now!
See ALL of this 'Opal Grading Guide' BELOW - including details of exactly how Precious Opals are graded.
What YOU DESERVE from ANY Precious OPAL Seller
Natural Precious Opals are Unique, Beautiful Creations.
Demand more of your Opal Vendor than a typical GemStone Dealer.
- Buying Precious Opals with Confidence in a store OR online is difficult.
- Does the seller really KNOW what they are selling?
- Is it a 'natural' (made by God, not by man) Precious Opal?
- Has the Opal been 'GRADED' for "B" BRIGHTNESS?
- Has the Opal been 'GRADED' for "N" BASE DENSITY?
- Has the Opal been 'GRADED' for "S" COLOR SATURATION?
If they claim a special pattern, coloration or characteristic, is that claim generally
supported by a recognized professional opal industry association?
Demand more of your Opal Vendor than a typical GemStone Dealer.
- Any decent opal can't be properly represented or appreciated from only 1 or 2 photos.
- Insist on seeing several photos that display the Precious Play-Of-Colors or Patterns of the Opal
you are considering.
- Are the photos good enough to let me see the color, pattern or other characteristics claimed?
- BECAUSE EVERY NATURAL PRECIOUS OPAL IS UNIQUE -
- Is the dealer showing me photos of the EXACT piece of Opal Jewelry I am buying?
- Insist on seeing photos of the specific piece of Opal jewelry that they want to ship to you.
The typical jewelry retailer or internet seller carries a few pieces of opal jewelry - often only white opal. They may have decades of
experience in the diamond or colored gemstone jewelry business. They may even be GIA certified.
But this experience doesn't mean they know Precious Opals, how to grade Opals, how to appraise Opals or how to describe what
makes a particular Opal valuable.
Precious Opals have special terms and grading that are exclusive to Opals. And each natural
Precious Opal is unique. No two natural Precious Opals look identical!
We have been told.....
That it is unlucky to NOT own a Precious Opal
* - the GemStone at the beginning and the end of every Rainbow.
* - the ONLY Natural GemStone as UNIQUE as the PERSON wearing it!
That Opal is every Woman's birthstone .....
* - because Precious Opals are available in every color of the Rainbow
* - to match Her birthsign 'colors'
* - and Her fashion color preferences.
Who is MyLEGACY-TREASURES
For over 20 years, MyLegacy-Treasures & LifeStyles-Collections have been pleasing select customers with quality
products and services. This is the business we love, not a hobby.
MyLegacy-Treasures - Your Precious Opal Experts
The Information boxes with each MyLegacy-Treasures Opal listing give a simplified overview about Grading a particular Precious Opal
and its characteristics.
Use the more detailed text descriptions below to educate yourself about the meanings of these terms. Learn to better select the Opal
Gemstones and Jewelry you purchase from any vendor.
Did you ever notice how someone selling only one type of Precious Opal, rarely says anything positive about the other available
Precious Opals???? .....
MyLegacy-Treasures is a Precious Opal specialist.
We don't play 'favorites' based upon what's in our inventory. We love and sell ALL types of Precious Opal from all important
world sources of Precious Opals!
Each Opal we sell is unique and natural (no manmade opals).
It was hand selected from the 1,000,000 Opals we view each year -
individually photographed, graded and described (the Opal you see is the one you get).
We carry hundreds of Solid Opals, Fossil Opals, Crystal Opals, Black Opals, Semi-Black or Dark Opals, Light Opals, White Opals,
Australian Opals, Brazilian Opals, Idaho Opals, Virgin Valley Opals, Louisiana Opals, Ethiopian Opals, Honduras Opals, Opal specimens. Click on the TITLE above to VIEW our loose Precious Opals!
We stock nearly 200 pieces of Opal jewelry - Earrings, Pendants, Rings, Engagement Rings,
Anniversary Rings, Wedding Rings, Necklaces, etc. in white gold, yellow gold and silver, with diamonds and other precious accent
gemstones. And we offer custom Opal jewelry designs to meet any customer's needs. Click on the TITLE above to VIEW our Precious Opal Jewelry!
Or, See Opals and Opal Jewelry HERE - MyLegacy-Treasures Storefront
OPAL GRADING by MyLegacy-Treasures
We strive to consistently, fairly represent every item we sell. We grade our Precious Opals following the guidelines of the Premier
Opal expert, Dr. Paul Downing ("Opal Identification and Value"), Australian and international Opal industry associations and the GIA.
We list the most easily seen and identifiable Precious Opal valuation characteristics in each posting to clearly classify the Opal we offer.
And we use a carefully calibrated professional system of lighting, digital cameras, optics, software, video graphics card and monitor
to offer photos that fairly depict each GemStone. We tend to under rather than over-emphasize our Opals so you will probably
believe it is even better 'in hand' than our online photos.
VALUING OF PRECIOUS OPALS - Details
Opal Colors are Affected by the Viewing Light!
Your Opal will look different in different kinds of lighting. What colors are seen, in what shape or pattern and from which viewing
angles depends, in part, upon the viewing light used.
Sunlight and tungsten bulb lighting will tend to bring out more warm tone colors - reds, oranges, yellows
magentas and purples. 'Cooler Light', like viewing your Opal in the shade, will tend to bring our the cooler greens and blues.
The best light source for viewing a Precious Opal gemstone is one that does not change. We recommend
direct sunlight or 12" to 16" from a bright tungsten lightbulb.
NOT ACCEPTABLE - Fluorescent lights, LED flashlights and any light filtered through a diffuser or lampshade.
How to View Your New Opal – The Charm & Magic
Your opal will look different in sunlight, noon-day open shade, tungsten lighting, halogen lighting, candle light, etc. This is part of the charm and magic of these most beautiful and unique of God’s natural GemStones.
Simply, we want you to get one of our opals. And feel that the opal in your hands is even more beautiful than the one you fell in love with in the online pictures.
ROCK, PIVOT, ROTATE, REPEAT
With the opal in your hands, viewing in direct sunlight or 12”-16” from a bright tungsten or halogen light source:
> > > >
- rock the Opal side-to-side and top-to-bottom
- pivot the Opal gemstone
- rotate it 90 degrees clockwise and repeat,
- then again.
Change the angle between the light source, the opal and your eyes and repeat. Rock the opal side to side or top to bottom to change the viewing angle.
In a minute or so, you can see more about the personality of this opal than our photos can reveal.
COLORS SEEN IN THE OPAL PLAY-OF-COLOR
Red is generally considered the most valuable of all Opal Play-of-Color. Greens and Blues are the most common of all Opal Play-Of-Color.
Less common colors can be any color of the visible spectrum from Violet, Purple, Peach, Royal Blue, Cherry Red, Flame Colors, Magentas,
Pinks, Oranges, Golden Yellows, Peacock Lime, Salmon, Lilac, Copper, Lavendar, Fuchsia, etc.
What is a MultiColor Precious Opal?
How many colors are seen simultaneously? If you see a greater variety of colors at one time, the Precious Opal is more rare, more
Many within the Opal industry call a Precious Opal 'multicolor' when three distinctly different colors can be seen simultaneously.
At MyLegacy-Treasures, we use the description 'multicolor' for a
Precious Opal that displays at least 5 different colors from a 'face up' viewing position.
If the colors are also in the range and hues of a beautiful multicolor floral garden, we will classify it
as a RARE 'Floral Harlequin'.
OPAL PLAY-OF-COLOR FLASHES, SHAPES & PATTERNS
See our written description below the photos of each Opal's listing for more information about special Opal Play-of-Color Flashes,
Shapes and Patterns.
Entire books have been written about the 'pinfire', 'rolling flashfire', 'picture', 'palette' and 'patterns' of
Precious Opals. Some Opal vendors with good imaginations are inspired to give each valuable Opal a fanciful name.
Harlequin is a name originally reserved for a very rare pattern of squares or diamond shape Play-Of-Color that looked like a
'Harlequin' is now used by Opal vendors worldwide to encompass many of the rare and unusual natural Precious Opal
Play-Of-Color patterns that are easily identified - Floral, Flag/Flagstone, Chinese Writing, Ribbon, Rainbow, Cathedral Window,
NOTE: We will make this the topic of a detailed Opal Guide including photo
examples in the near future.
OPAL PLAY-OF-COLOR BRILLIANCE - The 'B' #
The Play-of-Color Brilliance of an Opal is rated on a scale of B1 to B5.
What is a B4.7?
NOTE - There are no internationally recognized grading numbers between, for example, a B4.5 and B5 grade that clearly
describe what would be the difference between a B4.7 and B4.8 grade.
We use a PLUS '+' to indicate an Opal is better/higher than a Standard Opal Brilliance Grading Number like a 'B4.5' and list it
as a 'B4.5+'.
We use TWO PLUSES '++' to indicate that an Opal is almost but not quite the quality of the next higher grade - like a 'B4.5++'
being almost a B5 grade.
B5 is BEST!
The the best possible Brilliance, B5, is extremely rare among all opals offered on world
markets with Precious Opal Play-Of-Color visible in low light levels - sometimes called a 'Night Stone'
or 'Night Opal'.
We recommend you look for Precious Opals rated B4, B4.5 or even B5 if you can afford the extra investment. MyLegacy-Treasures does
not sell Opals with a Play-of-Color Brilliance below B3.
BRILLIANCE TABLE DESCRIPTION
Not Precious Opal - aka - Common Opal, Potch, Jelly, Mexican 'Fire'
B1 - FAINT P-O-C
P-O-C Only in Bright Light/Direct Sun
B2 - DIM P-O-C
Fair P-O-C in Bright Light/Direct Sun, DIM P-O-C in Moderate Light
B3 - BRIGHT P-O-C
Bright in Bright/Direct Sun, V. Nice P-O-C in Moderate, Fair in Lower Light
B3.5 - V. BRIGHT P-O-C
V. Bright in Bright/Direct Sun, Bright P-O-C in Moderate, V. Nice in Lower Light
B4 - BRILLIANT P-O-C
Brilliant in Bright Light/Sun, Crisp/Saturated Color in Moderate, Good in Lower Light
B4.5 - V. BRILLIANT P-O-C
V. Good in Lower Light, Exceptional in all other lighting, (slightly lower than B5)
B5 - EXCEPTIONAL P-O-C
Exceptional Bright, Crisp, Saturated Color in all lighting (color visible in low light)
OPAL BASE DENSITY NAME - The N # - COLOR
N1 to N4 Opals have base (density) numbers of "BLACK" Opal.
Opal Base Density Chart
N5 to N6 Opals have a base (density) of "Dark" or "Semi-Black" Opal.
N7 to N8 Opals have a base (density) of "Light" Opal.
N9 Opals have a base (density) of "White" Opal.
An Opal's 'Base Density' or 'Tone' is referring to the general background lightness or
darkness of the 'body' of the Precious Opal. It is the 'canvas' upon which or within which you will see the Precious Opal
Play-Of-Color FLASHES and Patterns.
The Opal BASE DENSITY Name is rated on a scale of N1 to N9.
BLACK, Semi-BLACK/DARK, LIGHT, WHITE are 'densities' which may have a color cast. The Opal Base density could have a color: a neutral
black or grey; blue; green; brown; yellow; orange; straw; pink/red; 'pearl'; etc.
So, a 'Black' Opal is an N1 to N4 Density, but it may have a color cast and not be 'BLACK'.
'N1 to N9' does not designate an Opal's country of origin or whether it is a solid, doublet or crystal opal.
What is a BLACK OPAL?
NOTE: This topic is more involved and of wide interest to Opal lovers. We have prepared a separate Guide on 'Selecting Black Opals and
Why a 'Black Opal' may not look BLACK!' (This 'Guide' contains helpful information we have never before seen in print from ANY Opal
expert!) You may request a copy of this document via email, print it and avoid confusion and costly mistakes!
OPAL PLAY-OF-COLOR SATURATION - The S #
Color Saturation, the richness or depth of color, is an important factor in the pricing of Opals but
less so in the enjoyment of them. You will probably find that you enjoy the beauty of Opals with a pale or pastel color saturation. And
you might enjoy bright, rich or vibrant color saturation levels of another Precious Opal.
Some Precious Opals will have only one S# if all the Play-Of-Color seen is at that saturation level. Some Precious Opals will have more than one S#, telling you that the saturation of the Play-Of-Color
is a range between these two numbers.
We list Color Saturation of an Opal as - PALE, PASTEL, MEDIUM, RICH and VIBRANT/MIRROR
as appropriate. These descriptive words as well as our photos should be used as guides to help you in deciding which opals to
purchase. Photos cannot always accurately show the color saturation your eyes will see.
OPAL COLOR SATURATION
S# COLOR SATURATION TABLE DESCRIPTION
S1 - PALE SATURATION
Colors are weak, highly diluted by white, grey, black. May need bright light to best view.
S2 - PASTEL SATURATION
Colors are soft Pastels. May be highly desired for fashion.
S3 - MEDIUM SATURATION
||Colors not the highly saturated/pure/rich. Often desired for fashion.
S4 - RICH SATURATION
||RICH, PURE, fully saturated colors
S5 - VIBRANT SATURATION
||Exceptional VIBRANT, Saturated Color in all lighting (sometimes like a Mirror of colored glass)
OPAL PLAY-OF-COLOR VIEWING ANGLES
The most expensive Opals have at least some wonderful Play-of-Color from every viewing angle. Sometimes an Opal is at its
best if lighted from the side or from slightly 'above' which would make it an ideal Opal to use for a pendant. Some Opals
are at their best and brightest 'face up' - when the viewer has the light source over her shoulder to view the Opal face-on
like a ring stone.
Opals with patterns, Harlequin, chinese writing, mirror flashes, rolling flashfire, pinfire, etc. usually display the best
of their beauty from certain directional viewing angles. - - - This can result in a sudden "SHOCK" of color
or pattern that splashes forth to delight your eyes. A woman who enjoys giving occasional
'surprises' & 'shocks' will probably delight
in owning a Precious Opal that matches her impulsive personality and moods.
If an Opal is highly directional or has particular beauty in our photos from
specific directional viewing, we will list it as 'directional' in our descriptions.
OPAL PLAY-OF-COLOR VISIBLE PERCENTAGE
The very best Precious Opals have play-of-color across the entire gemstone. Most Precious Opals do not have play-of-color across
100% of the gem and are beautiful. Every natural Precious Opal gemstone is unique. Some Precious Opals have a mirror flash, a Harlequin or other unusual pattern, rainbows,
ribbons of color or many variations that are both beautiful and stunning while not covering 100% of the Opal's face.
Sometimes an area of the Opal will have a Play-Of-Color FLASH from a particular viewing angle, while another area of the Opal
FLASHes best at a different viewing angle. You may have to rotate or pivot the GemStone and/or change
positions between you, the Opal and the viewing light to see Play-Of-Color from a particular area of many Opal GemStones.
Our photos probably will only capture some of the play-of-color, patterns and coverage across the entire face of the Opal GemStone.
By choice, MyLegacy-Treasures selects Precious Opals with a Play-Of-Color area that
is at least 60% of the Opal's surface. Most of our Opal inventory has a Play-Of-Color FLASH of 80% to 100%. We list if the
Opal has 100% play-of-color coverage because this is more valuable and more costly.
The Play-Of-Color Visible Percentage information is always listed for each Opal or Opal Jewelry item we sell.
OPAL SIZE - WEIGHT - SHAPE
Opal sizes are listed in millimeters (25.4 mm = 1 inch) and weights are listed in carats - just like all other GemStones and the
jewelry mountings for them.
A calibrated shape gemstone should fit most jewelry mountings designed
for those dimensions. An Opal that is within 0.5 to 1 mm of a calibrated size may acceptably fit into
many calibrated mountings. Calibrated shape Opals typically cost 15% to 50% more than a freeform shape Opal.
A freeform or larger size Opal can be cut to a smaller size by an experienced lapidarist. Or you can have a custom jewelry
mounting made for your unique Opal, often for less expense than you might expect.
Thickness of the Opal is a major factor in the carat weight of a Precious Opal gemstone. But an Opal that is unusually thick will be considered less valuable.
PRECIOUS OPAL TYPE, Origin & Location
We LOVE Precious Opals, Alive with the Sparkling, Pinfire or Rolling FLASHES of Play-Of-Color.
If an Opal doesn't have Play-Of-Color, it isn't Precious Opal.
Precious Opal TYPES include:
- opaque solid opal
- translucent solid opal
- transparent or crystal solid opal
- fossil solid opal
- matrix opal - opal visible within non-precious matrix rock (no glue)
- boulder opal - opal natually attached to backing of the rock it formed upon (no glue)
- constructed doublet - natural precious opal glued to a base of rock, obsidian, tourmaline, other
- inlay - natural precious opals glued together or with other gemstones
constructed sandwich of base rock below, thin slice of opal, with quartz, glass or plastic cap above
manmade or synthetic opal
Precious Opal Origin, Locations, Mines
All Precious Opal supplies are being depleted. Opal prices have risen 30% to 50% at the beginning of 2007.
The quality Precious Opal you buy in 2007 should be worth more in the coming years! Unlike gold or
silver, quality Precious Opals seem to appreciate in value every year.
The famous locality for Black Precious Solid Opal is Lightning Ridge, Australia. Solid Black precious opal also comes
from Coober Pedy (some crystal/fossil opal), Virgin Valley Nevada and
Honduras. Most precious fossil opal comes from Coober Pedy.
Precious crystal opal comes from Coober Pedy, other Australian locations, Brazil, Virgin Valley Nevada, old Idaho Opal stock, Ethiopia,
Honduras & Mexican materials.
Queensland Australia is the famous locality for 'boulder opal'. Natural Opal Doublets are now being made from Australian,
Brazilian, Ethiopian, Mexican and Idaho precious opal. Country of origin for natural opal doublets is often not known.
Black Precious Opal, Fossil Opal and Crystal Opal are the most rare types.
Dark or Semi-Black precious opal is much more common than Black Precious Opal. Light Precious Opal is much more common than Dark
Opal. But, even the once abundant Precious white Australian Opal is becoming rare.
Where as many as 3000 miners once worked in Lighting Ridge, only a few hundred can now earn a
living. Lambina, a promising opal field less than a decade ago, is now mostly played out. No new Australian
precious opal fields have been found to replace the famous ones.
Precious Idaho opal seems played out.
The Louisiana precious opal mine has been closed for many years. Mining in
Virgin Valley Nevada has never been of sufficient quantity to supply world opal
markets. Mexican precious opal has always been smaller size stones.
Ethiopian precious opal is relatively new and promising but only limited
quantities are anticipated for maybe a decade. Queensland sources of
'boulder opal' and opal doublets have good reserves for the future.
Brazilian precious opal production is being expanded in the
Boi Morto and Pedro Il
regions for many types of opal that can challenge the best Australian solid, crystal and
Visible Opal Flaws
Listed here are some of the natural imperfections that can reduce the value of your Precious Opal. If you can accept these natural imperfections, you may
be able to purchase an Opal you otherwise couldn't afford. And, the 'natural imperfections' are proof that the Opal is not manmade!
A whitish to cream color area visible within your Opal's surface is often called 'clay' or 'silk' or 'silt', small bits of clay present when the
Opal was forming. A 'Matrix' Opal that has Precious Opal surrounded by visible rock or clay it formed within will be less valuable than a
solid Opal or most quality constructed doublets.
Sometimes a line inside the Opal is just how the Opal naturally formed and not a crack or flaw.
If substantial areas of your Opal have no precious Play-Of-Color (sometimes called 'potch'), that will reduce the value of the Opal.
If there are visible scratches on the surface of the Opal, its value will increase after the Opal has
been professionally polished to remove them. Cracks that go through the thickness of the Opal's surface will reduce its value. To save a damaged valuable
Precious Opal keepsake, cracks can sometimes be repaired and no longer be visible to the unaided eye. Any seller of Precious Opals should always
tell the customer if an opal has been repaired, carbonized or otherwise treated.
Gallery of Beautiful Opals
click here to see our
Adjust Your Monitor for Accurate Colors + Contrast!
Opals look dramatically different in different colors of lighting, from different viewing angles. We have carefully color
calibrated our cameras and computers to consistently as possible list images that look like the Opal in our hands when we
list it AND how it should look in your hands in sunlight or 12"-16" from a bright tungsten lightbulb.
However, no two televisions or computer monitors look alike. Images on your computer monitor/graphics board/viewing software may be quite different
than a calibrated system like ours.
Precious Opals are FUN.
Precious Opals are Beautiful.
Every Natural Precious Opal is Unique.
Be the First to Get New Opal 'Guides', Special Sales, Surprises
Would you like a printable copy of this 'Opal Grading Guide' to have when you look at Precious Opals?
Send an email requesting your copy.
To learn more about Precious Opals, send an email to join our newsletter list and be the first to get valuable 'Guides' telling
What is a Black Opal (This Opal doesn't look BLACK), How to Care for your Opals, What is a Precious Crystal Opal, How Precious Opals are
Valued, What is a Fossil Opal, 10 Things You Must Know Before Buying an Opal, Precious Opal Jewlery Buying Tips, The World's Newest/Rarest Gemstone,
and much more.
Or purchase something from MyLegacy-Treasures to automatically qualify for these valuable mailings, advance notification about very
rare or unusual offerings, special member sales opportunities and surprises! (Your personal information will never be supplied to
any other company.)
Our Commitment to You
No item we sell will knowingly be misrepresented. We strive to accurately describe each item's features, size, weight, condition, country
of origin and other information.
We do not adjust contrast, color saturation (intensity), exposure, etc. to unrealistically make a collectible, Opal, color change
gemstone, a pastel or lower quality item appear substantially different on the internet compared to holding it in your hands under the same
intensity and color balance of lighting.
We try to accurately photograph each item using tungsten (bright room light equivalent) or daylight-balanced lighting (like direct sunlight).
Some items (especially Opals and some gemstones) look different in different "colors" of light - tungsten, fluorescent, halogen,
noon-day sun, natural shade, morning or evening sunlight, cloudy/overcast. Our photos may be 1:1 (life size), smaller for large items or
magnified larger than life size to show detail and quality. Magnified images may show minor natural flaws not visible to the unaided eye.
We Inventory Thousands of loose natural Opals, Gemstones in every Color of the Rainbow & All Fashion Colors. Our Worldwide
contacts give us access to Literally any GemStone - Rare, Jewelry, Collectible & Investment Quality. (Contact Us with Your Gemstone Questions.)
Best-of-the-Best | Opals - Jewelry - Gemstones - Religious |
Customer Feedback |