Diamonds are precious gemstones, and we don’t need to tell you how popular they are. On the other hand, opals are gemstones that have been popular since antiquity. In our present era, there’s no disputing that diamonds reign as the most popular gemstone in the world — but are they the rarest? It’d be easy to associate opals as “less than” or inferior to diamonds, but that would be a grave mistake.
Opals are a magnificent product of rainfall and flash fiery colors that adorned titans and Roman leaders throughout time.
Diamonds are abundant worldwide, while most opals come from Australian and Ethiopia. Considering their origins and modern popularity, how rare is opal compared to diamonds? In order to answer that, we need to look at the role gemstones play in society, and what constitutes rarity.
These two gemstones are spectacular in their own right, but which is rarer? Furthermore, does rarity relate to value? And on that note, what factors influence a gemstone’s rarity?
We’re going to answer all of your questions below! But first, what role does the market play in deciding the value and rarity of a gemstone?
When it comes to gemstone popularity, rarity and demand, the marketplace plays a significant role. In fact, most gemstones experience their fair share of demand and neglect. Why is that? It boils down to simple economics. The value and rarity of a gemstone directly relate to supply and demand. Both diamonds and opals are common, but that isn’t to say that all diamonds and opals are created equal.
Getting your hands on opal is easy, but finding gem-quality opal is another story. Diamonds, on the other hand, fetch a high price even for the most low-quality diamonds. Why is value important? Because the value of most diamonds will be higher than opals, while high-quality opals are rarer than diamonds. Confused? Allow us to elaborate.
Let’s illustrate this concept with an example. Diamonds obtain gradings by the 4Cs: cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. The highest quality diamonds are considered flawless, but what about low-quality, cloudy diamonds? That diamond would have a lot of inclusions and rank as an I1, which stands for Inclusions (1st Degree).
This diamond is going to cost around $1500 USD. Now let’s compare this diamond to an opal. A high-quality 1-carat opal that’s classified as Extra Fine can cost between $8k to $20k USD per carat. Which do you think is rarer? The less expensive diamond or the rare opal? Conversely, a commercial 1-carat opal will cost around $100-$300 USD. In this case, we’re not looking at a rare opal or a rare diamond.
What about a high-quality, flawless diamond? Let’s put it this way: there is really no ceiling to how much these gemstones can cost, but they can climb up to seven figures and even cost millions. Are these highly rare diamonds? Absolutely, and they are also considered perfect.
How rare is opal compared to diamonds? As you can gather, answering that is complicated considering factors like grading scales, origin, and unique characteristics of each gemstone.
In general, diamonds aren’t rare. However, high-quality diamonds are rare and costly. Still, diamonds come from all over the world: from Africa, Australia, Russia, and Canada. If there are so many diamonds, why are they so expensive? Ultimately, the standard price points for diamonds are the result of genius marketing. Can you think of any other gemstone as popular as a diamond? You can thank the De Beers marketing department for that, which made diamonds standard protocol for engagement rings. In short, diamonds aren’t solely expensive because they are rare, they are expensive because they are in demand.
Opal seams exist abundantly throughout Australia and Ethiopia. That said, much of opal fields yield materials that aren’t gem-quality. This means that finding high-quality, usable opals for gemstones is rare. Once miners retrieve all of the gem-quality opals from the opal field, that deposit is exhausted. When fewer opals are in circulation, the value skyrockets because the supply shortens. This is contrary to diamonds, which are costly and popular. Again, few gemstones are currently as popular for engagement rings as diamonds, which makes them more expensive.
We mentioned that diamonds are graded by the 4Cs, but how are opals valued? While diamonds boil down to four key features, opals include 10. This illustrates the fact that an opal’s characteristics heavily affect how rare, or valuable it is. To understand how rare an opal is, we have to look at:
Considering all of these factors, the rarest variety are black opals with a harlequin pattern. This specific type of opal distributes phenomenal play of color across the gemstone. The rectangular pattern is extremely rare and most commonly from Lightning Ridge in Australia. This variety of black opal can fetch $5,000-$30,000 per carat!
We’ve taken the long route to get to this answer, and rightfully so. Understanding the rarity of both opals and diamonds is complex enough. A side by side comparison is more dynamic because there are so many factors to consider when exploring rarity.
On the whole, opals are rarer than diamonds because there are less high-quality opals available than there are diamonds. The good news is that you can find a gem-quality opal for a great price, especially compared to a diamond. Some of the rarest opals in the world exceed even diamonds on a price per carat scale, as is the case with The Eternal Flame, the rarest opal in the world.
How rare is opal compared to diamonds? In 2018, 147 million diamond carats were mined worldwide. In 2017, Opal Auctions sold nearly 40,000 opals . We’ll let you do the math, but it’s easy to see that there are far more diamonds in the world than opals, making opals the rarer gemstone!
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