If you’ve ever shopped for opals, you’ve come across a wide variety of items. That’s because opals are one of the most diverse gemstones in the world. Opals are shaped by hardened silica gels that formed in the crevices of the earth over millions of years. As you might imagine — this dynamic process resulted in a varied opal market glistening with countless variations of this desirable gem. So, what is an opal doublet, and how does it differ from an opal solid?
While solid opals are entirely natural, an opal doublet is mixed with other materials. In this article, we’ll define exactly what is an opal doublet, and why buyers might enjoy this affordable alternative to solid opal.
First, let’s explain the definition of doublet. A doublet is a stone made of two materials: the first is a natural sheet of gemstone, like solid opal, and the second is a solid backing, like ironstone.
An opal doublet isn’t made from 100% opal. Instead, a piece of solid opal is attached to a different material backing. You might wonder why?
Opal doublet backing results in a more affordable gemstone. Additionally, some sheets of opal are too thin to produce a full gemstone. A completely natural solid opal is optimal, but sometimes buyers want a cheaper alternative that looks equally as beautiful. And that’s where opal doublets come into play!
So, how are they made?
The process is simple, but let’s break it down to give you a full visual of an opal doublet.
First, you take a thin sheet of opal that’s just a few millimeters thick.
Then, you grab a solid backing like black potch or ironstone.
Now, let’s put them together by gluing the opal sheet onto the thick backing.
Voila! You’ve made an opal doublet!
It truly is that straightforward. But if it’s not entirely made of real opal, are doublets valuable? Well, in order to answer that, we must first address the doublet backing materials.
Most doublets need a durable backing that’ll hold up to daily wear and tear. The optimal material is a strong, earthy material like ironstone. Ironstone is naturally brown, so when you place the colorful opal on top, the backing serves as a blank canvas to fully illuminate the fiery splashes of color.
In some cases, jewelers use black opal potch or plastic. However, these aren’t as strong and durable, nor do they have the same influence on the stone’s color like ironstone. As you might imagine, any gemstone that’s not entirely natural takes a hit in value. But that doesn’t mean opal doublet’s aren’t deserving of your dollar!
Opal doublets fall into the category of “alternative stones.” That’s because they aren’t entirely made of opal. The portion on top of the stone is solid opal, but the backing is another material. This results in a much lower value compared to solid opal. Of course, that feature isn’t without perks!
You might not always want to invest into a real piece of solid opal. Perhaps you’re more interested in an affordable alternative that exudes the same play of color in solid opals? Then you should take a closer look at opal doublets!
You can buy opal doublets at a much lower cost than solid, and they look nearly the same for a fraction of the cost. Doublets are especially optimal if you want prestigious gems like black opal, which tend to be the most valuable of the opal family.
If you thought black opals weren’t in your price range, think again and purchase an opal doublet! Of course, you may want to be on the lookout for variances between doublets and solid opal.
When shopping for gemstones, the more you know, the better purchase you’ll make. For example, you don’t want to buy what you thought was an opal doublet only to find out it’s a triplet. Triplets have a tiny middle layer of solid opal between a thick sheet of plastic and ironstone backing.
Fortunately, identifying opal doublets is easy! All you have to do is turn the opal on its side. Do you see two distinct layers divided by a line down the middle? If it’s an opal doublet, one layer will be a colorful opal, and the other will be a dark sheet of solid stone.
It’s that easy! However, identifying an opal doublet set into jewelry is more challenging. Sometimes, the setting covers the sides of the opal, hiding the doublet layers. If you’re unsure whether it’s a doublet or solid opal, ask the jeweler for more information. When in doubt, buy from trustworthy retailers who disclose all pertinent details of their gemstones. Speaking of which: where is the best place to buy opal doublets?
We’re glad you asked!
Most opal doublets come from Lightning Ridge, Australia, a location with an abundance of both opal and ironstone. Of course, there are additional opal deposits in Mexico, Ethiopia, and around the globe. That’s good news for opal buyers because opal doublets are widely available!
When you buy gemstones online, take care to buy from reputable sellers and look for buyer assurance programs.
Origin: Where the gem came from.
Type: What kind of opal is it; a doublet, solid, or triplet?
Weight: How many carats does the gem weigh?
Shape: What shape does it have?
Color: What is the doublet’s primary color scheme?
Pattern: There are many opal patterns, including Pinfire, Harlequin, and more.
Size: How large is the stone in millimeters?
Brightness: How bright is the opal?
Transparency: Is it milky, opaque, or transparent?
Hardness: What is the gem’s ranking on the Mohs Hardness scale?
Treatment: Has the stone been color-treated or enhanced in any way?
Another trick for buying gemstones online is to look closely at the images. How is the lighting? Is it crisp and clear? The best way to get an accurate representation of the doublet online is to look for a video with bright lighting. And that sums up everything you need to know about opal doublets!
Are you ready to shop yet? We thought so! Shop opal doublet stones, parcels, and pairs.
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