How to Buy Opals + Opal Jewelry - Part 1

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How to Buy Precious Opals + Opal Jewelry

Precious Opal - Australian, black, crystal, fossil, Mexican, opal jewelry, opal ring, opal earrings, Brazilian, Ethiopian, Virgin Valley Nev., Honduras.  Many types of Precious Opal are available from localities around the world.  We will tell you what you want and need to know about Opal before you choose the ones that you will treasure as your own.

We love Precious Opal - Opal with the colorful flashes, sparkles, pinfire or flash fire that has been fascinating men and women for thousands of years.  These guides will help you learn how to buy Precious Opals, how to select Opals, how to better appreciate opals and how to understand what is special and unique about the Opal that you just 'fell in love with.'

You can quickly learn the basics of how a Precious natural Opal is graded, valued and appraised.  While you can't become an 'Opal Expert' in a few minutes, You can -

  1.  See the simple basics of Precious Opal Grading.

  2. Understand why 1 Opal is worth more than another.

  3. Make Better Decisions whey buying loose Opals or Opal Jewelry.

  4. Avoid costly mistakes of buying Opals incorrectly identified by the seller.

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.  In fact, to your eyes, these common Diamonds and Colored Gemstones pretty much all look alike unless they are Very Bad!

So, you have to depend upon an Appraisal Certificate from a gemological testing company or a Certified Gemologist to tell you which one is better, where and why.

Natural Precious Opals require specialized training and education.  Opals have special descriptive Terms and Grading that are exclusive to Opals!
  A jewelry retailer or internet seller may have decades of experience in the diamond or colored gemstone jewelry business.  They may even be GIA Certified - & not know Precious Opals, how to grade Opals, how to appraise Opals or what makes a particular Opal valuable!

To appraise the value of a Precious Opal, the person doing the appraisal must be viewing at least dozens of Precious Opals every week.  If you want to learn to appraise a Precious Opal, we believe that the best source of information is the book by the world famous Opal Expert, Dr. Paul Downing - 'Opal Identification & Value', about $50.

Every natural Precious Opal is Unique.  No Two Precious Opals are Identical!  And You can learn to see what makes one Precious Opal more Valuable than another!

Most of the Valuing of Precious Opals can be done without Equipment:

  1. Direct Sunlight or a continuous spectrum light source (5000 degrees K)
  2. The Charts and Information in these Guides
  3. Your Eyes!

MyLegacy-Treasures is a Precious Opal Specialist

We love and sell ALL types of Precious Opals from ALL Important World Sources of Precious Opals.  We don't play 'favorites' based upon what's in our inventory. 

We carry Australian Opal, Brazilian Opal, Mexican Opal, Honduras Opal, Oregon Opal, Ethoipian Opal, Virgin Valley Nev. Opal, black opal, semi-black opal, light opal, white opal, fossil opal, crystal opal, opal rings, opal pendants, opal earrings, opal engagement ring, opal birthstones, opal crosses, loose opals, opal rubs, other opal jewelry and more!

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)

See our Precious Opals and Opal Jewelry here

The Valuing of Precious Opals

  1. Colors Seen in the Precious Opal Play-of-Color
  2. The Flash or Pattern to the Play-Of-Color
  3. The 'B' Number - Brightness of the Play-Of-Color
  4. The 'N' Number - The Opal's background or Base Density
  5. The 'S' Number - The Color Saturation or Intensity of Color
  6. The Viewing Angles - where P-O-C can be seen
  7. Percentage of the Opal's Surface with P-O-C
  8. Size and Carat Weight
  9. Freeform or Calibrated Shape
  10. Flaws - 'clay', matrix, polish, surface blemishes, inclusions
  11. Country, Region, Location where the Opal was mined
  12. The Value of the Jewelry setting including other gemstones

How to View Your New Opal

The Charm and The Magic

Your Precious Opal will look different in daylight, cloudy days, noonday open shade, tungsten lighting, halogen lighting, candle light, etc.

This is part of the Charm & Magic of these Most Beautiful & Unique of God's Natural GemStones. 

Your Precious Opal will Look Different & display Different Colors 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 & Tungsten Bulb Lighting will tend to bring out more Warm Tone Colors - Reds, Oranges, Pinks, Yellows, Magentas & Purples.  ' Cooler Light' like viewing your Precious Opal in the shade, will tend to bring our the cooler Greens, Teals, Aquamarines & Blues with fewer reds and warm tone colors being seen.

As the Light Source, the Viewing Position between Your Eyes and the Opal and the Changing Angle at which you hold Your Opal are altered , Your Precious Opal can display Different Aspects of Her Unique Color & Pattern Personality.

The Best Light Source
for viewing a Precious Opal GemStone is one that contains all colors of the visible light spectrum, like Direct Sunlight.  We recommend Direct Sunlight or 12' from a bright Tungsten Lightbulb.

NO - fluorecent lights, LED flashlights or any light filtered through a lampshade or diffuser.  These are not satisfactory light sources for viewing your Precious Opal and trying to evaluate the quality, B brilliance, N density or S color saturation.


With the Precious Opal in your hands, Viewing it in Direct Sunlight or 12 inches from a bright Tungsten or Halogen Light:


Rock the Opal side-to-side and top-to-bottom

Pivot the Opal Gemstone

Rotate the Opal 90 degrees and Repeat

And Repeat until you have Rotated it 360 degrees

Change the Angle between the Opal, the Light Source and Your Eyes and Repeat.  Rock the Opal side-to-side, top-to-bottom and pivot it to change the viewing angle.

In a minute or so, you can see more about the personality of this Precious Opal than still photos or even a video can fully reveal.

Opal Play-Of-Color Flashes, Shapes & Patterns

Entire Books have been Written about the 'pinfire', 'rolling flash fire', 'picture', 'rainbow', 'palette', 'ribbon', 'cathedral window', 'asteria', 'chinese writing', 'flagstone', 'floral', 'cloverleaf', 'fish scale', 'harlequin', 'square' and other patterns of Precious Opals.  Some Opal Vendors with good imaginations are inspired to give each of their valuable Opals a fanciful name for the image or inspiration they feel when they look at it.

Harlequin is a name originally reserved for an Extremely Rare Pattern of Squares or Diamond Shaped Play-Of-Color that looks like a chess board.

'Harlequin' is now used by Opal Vendors worldwide to encompass and identify many of the rare and unusual Natural Precious Opal Play-Of-Color patterns listed above.  Pinfire, Flash, Picture, Flashfire, Rolling Flashfire or Broad Flashfire Play-Of-Color are not identified as Harlequin patterns.

NOTE - We will make this a separate subject for an upcoming Opal Guide with plenty of photos.  Each Precious Opal we sell is classified and special Play-Of-Color Patterns are identified for that particular Opal.  You can scroll through the loose opals and opal jewelry in our eBay store to view many of these Rare and Unusual Precious Opal Patterns and Colors.

Opal Brilliance - the 'B' #

The Play-Of-Color Brilliance of a Precious Opal is rated on a scale of B1 to B5.  Dr. Paul Downing, the world famous Opal Expert, created this scale to grade the Brilliance of the Play-Of-Color or Precious Opals.  This scale has been generally adopted worldwide.  You will see many internet and eBay sellers who are generally following Dr. Downing's guidelines.

WHAT is a B4.7?

NOTE - there are No internationally recognized grading numbers between, for example, a B4.5 and a B5 grade that clearly describe what would be the difference between a B4.7 and a B4.8 grades.

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 2 PLUSES - '++' to indicate 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 Best Possible Precious Opal 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 Opal' or 'Night Stone'.

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 Precious Opals with a Play-Of-Color Brilliance below B3.

OPAL B #                                             BRILLIANCE TABLE DESCRIPTION

NO      Play-Of-Color                            Not Precious Opal - aka - Common Opal, Potch, Mexican 'Fire', Jelly

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 in Moderate Light

B3      Bright P-O-C                              Bright in Bright/Sun, V. Nice in Moderate, Fair in Lower Light

B3.5   Very Bright                                 V. Bright in Bright/Sun, Bright in Moderate, V. Nice in Lower Light

B4      Brilliant                                        Brilliant in Bright/Sun, Crisp/Saturated Colors in Moderate, Good in Lower Light

B4.5  Very Brilliant                                Very Good in Lower Light, Exceptional in all other (slightly lower than B5)

B5     Exceptional                                   Exceptional Bright, Crisp, Saturated Color in all lighting (color visible in low light)

Future Opal Guides on eBay

Because of size limitations for eBay Guides, we will add more Parts giving you the charts and descriptions for each of these Precious Opal Valuation characteristics.  If you feel impatient, go to our eBay store and look at the bottom of the left hand column for the complete Guide 'How Precious Opals are Graded'

Guide - How Precious Opals are Graded  or contact us to receive a 'printable' copy of this Opal Guide

We will add to these Guides with photos, examples and additional descriptions.  If you have any questions, contact us via eBay messaging to mylegacy-treasures 

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