In recent years, a new category of stones has made an entrance onto the gemstone market: man-made gemstones. Although met with reasonable doubt from the public at first, laboratory-born gemstones have found their way onto the shelves of the most prestigious and renowned jewellers. Scientists and gemmologists are now able to recreate some of the earth’s most precious stones, and even enhance their quality and characteristics. Opal is one of the gemstones that now have a lab-created twin – let’s have a closer look at both of their characteristics.
Opals were first discovered over 10,000 years ago, according to archaeologists. For Ancient civilisations and tribes across the globe, opal held strong symbolism and mystical power. In modern days, the mining of opals is mainly focused in Australia and Ethiopia, with a few sources in Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia.
Natural opal is a stone unlike other gemstones for its chemical composition, hydrated silica. Because of its water element, opal is considered a “soft stone”, which never fully loses its moisture even when set in jewellery. This makes natural opal fragile and prone to cracks if not cared for properly.
The stunning colours reflected in opal make it stand out from the other gemstones, for an opal of the finest quality can reflect all the colours of the rainbow, where most high-quality opals show hues of yellow, green, orange and blue.
Created opals are the product of a 14 to 18 month-long process, created in controlled laboratory conditions. The stones are carefully studied and tested to obtain a beautiful opal with the same physical and chemical properties as natural opals, embodying their raw beauty.
Unlike many assumptions, the colours of a created opal are not enhanced and are as natural as the colours of a natural opal. Because both natural and created opals share the same chemical properties, the physical appearance of a created opal has all the characteristics of a natural one and remains unchanged. However, there is a continuity of colour obtained with a created opal that natural opals don’t have, which only adds to the beauty of created opals.
There is one enhancement and modification created opals are subject to: water extraction. As previously mentioned, natural opals hold water and are therefore not as hard and resistant as other gemstones can be. By extracting the water during the creation process, created opals are then tougher and not prone to breaking.
Created opals truly deserve the admiration they have received from jewellery lovers around the world, for combining raw beauty with the most advanced science, whilst allowing for stunning pieces of jewellery to be affordable.