The Never-ending Battle – Natural Opal vs Synthetic

Here at Opals Down Under, we do often see customers come in wanting ‘real’ Australian Opal, nothing synthetic.  Occasionally, they have confused Triplets and Doublets (which contain slivers of solid opal) with lab-created opal.  But every now and then we have been asked to value a piece that, though pretty, we can obviously see that it is man-made, and not the work of nature.

Synthetic opal CAN have some benefit, with it being obviously cheaper than solid natural opal of the same degree of brightness and colour, but really, it can’t beat the real thing.

We were a little taken back, however, when we came across some earrings for sale online, clearly showing off (well to us) lab-created opal.  Nothing really wrong with that, BUT, the description underneath read Australian Fiery White Opal Earrings.


Firstly, to our knowledge, there is no lab-created opal made in Australia.  It’s usually supplied from overseas manufacturers. So to call these opals ‘Australian’ is the first mistake.

Secondly, to not state that they are clearly synthetic opals in the main description is mis-leading.

Thirdly, in the blurb underneath, the seller goes on to say that ‘created Opals are actually preferred to natural opals for many jewelry items’. Well, that’s news to us. They then go on to say ‘Natural Opal is not particularly well-suited to being used in many jewelry applications since it is a relatively soft gemstone, breaks easily, has to be protected from sunlight and many chemicals and it requires ongoing care and maintenance.’  Wrong again.

Honestly, this type of misleading statement of Australia’s National Gemstone is rather disheartening for us in the Opal Industry, who continue to try and push through all these myths and old wive’s tales about Opal that have existed and frustrated us for years.

So let’s dispell a few myths or claims.

Synthetic Opal is no stronger than Australian Opal (though Synthetic Opal is ‘flexible’ and is, in fact softer to cut than Australian natural Opal).

Australian Opal can be set into a variety of styles and settings (obviously you cannot tension opal like a diamond, as yes, they are softer).

The hardness rating of Opal is about 6.5 on the Mohs gemstone scale. It’s slightly tougher than glass. Definitely more durable than Emerald, and harder than Pearls.

Australian Opal won’t fade in the sunlight.

Australian Opal is impervious to oils, perfumes etc. 

Yes, Opal is the birthstone for October.  No, it is not ‘unlucky’ for you to wear it if you are not born in October, you buy it for yourself, you don’t cross your legs, eyes and say bippity boppity boo during purchase and any other ‘unlucky myths’ (why don’t these myths exist for Diamonds, hmmm?).

Hopefully that has helped but a few minds at ease, and corrected those that keep dismissing Opal as ‘too soft’ for jewellery.