A sunset, tropical waters, watercolor paintings, Holi color clouds, the galaxy. You might be asking, “What do these have in common?”
If you have ever seen an opal, you likely already know. Considered one of the most colorful stones available within the industry, opals show many colors all in one wearable stone.
All About Black Opal
Moody and mysterious, black opals are fitting for an October birthstone. They have a dark body color with a gorgeous play of color that spans the spectrum. The benefit to a dark body color is that the colors pop off the darker background and scream at people to look at them.
The rarest and most valuable type of opal — black opals — are found at Lightning Ridge in New South Wales, Australia. No one really knows where Lightning Ridge got its name; however, allegedly a farmer, his trusty four-legged companion, and his flock of sheep were struck by lightning, aiding in the ridge getting its name.
Perhaps that’s fitting. Lightning Ridge black opals can be as dark as midnight with a play of color that’s akin to a night sky lit by bright flashes of lightning.
Opals have some technical words that are associated with them and them alone:
- Play of color: The flashes of color you get when you rock and tilt the stone. This phenomenon is created by the internal structure interacting with light.
- Body color: The background color, the palette in which all the colorful flashes lie.
At Stuller, we grade our calibrated gemstones based on the darkness of the body color. Gray body color will be graded as AA quality whereas a dark gray or black body results in AAA quality.
Each black opal in Stuller Notable Gems™ is hand selected to represent the best features or a quality that’s unique to that stone, whether that’s body color, pattern, shape, or something else.
What Makes an Opal Valuable?
All other things equal, the play of color and the stone’s pattern determine an opal’s value.
Play of Color
A vibrant red opal has a more expensive price tag as it’s incredibly rare. The more red visible when you tilt and turn the stone, the more expensive the opal. Follow the spectrum backward for values: blue, at the opposite end of the spectrum, is the most common and therefore the least valuable; yellow, in the middle, is valued as such.
Play of color that is visible from one angle or only on part of the surface drops the value of the stone. The play of color should be spread across the whole stone, even if it changes in pattern type.
It seems strange to think that the pattern of colors on a stone would aid in the value that it holds. However, when you think about it in terms of rarity, it makes more sense. There are three major types of patterns that hold sway on value, each represented by a corresponding look and rarity factor:
- Pinfire: Very small patches or dots of spectral color.
- Flash: Large areas of play of color.
- Harlequin: Large, distinct, usually angular patches of play of color with touching edges.
Harlequin is quite rare, especially when you get a full range of colors, which makes it considerably more valuable. Pinfire is very common, making it less rare and therefore less valuable — even when the pinfire play of color is red.
Opals for October
The extraordinary shapes and unique ability to match and highlight any color makes black opal a go-to for designers wanting to create one-of-a-kind jewelry. The dark palette and eye-catching explosion of color make black opal a customer favorite for those keenly aware of the attention they will get — social media, here they come.
Try having a few loose in your store this month (it is the October birthstone, after all!), and it’s sure to lead to conversations about what black opals are, where they come from, and how customers can add one to their wish list.
At the very least, you get to have a lively, gemstone-positive conversation that can open the door for future questions. And your customers will think of you as the gemstone expert!