We can probably all agree that diamonds are the most well-known gems in the world. Their rarity, shine, shapes, and so much more make them sought after by a wide variety of people.
But is there a stone worth more than a diamond? And, while we’re at it, is opal worth more than diamond?
That is a question we’ll try to give an answer to today – as well as provide you with some basic information about opal stones in general and in comparison to diamonds.
So, if that interests you, keep reading!
Opal – Background & Fun Facts
Those of us interested in precious stones will have heard of opal as the most precious stone of all. Why is that so, you might ask? Well, because it harbors the colors of all the other precious gems in one unique-looking stone.
Opal has been around for centuries – even in ancient Roman times. Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar, even wrote about this gem and how it shines with the shine and colors of many of the most beautiful gemstones.
This gem has had a turbulent voyage through history, from the discovery of numerous different kinds of this gemstone to it earning the title of an evil stone that brings bad luck.
About 95% of opal comes from Australia, while the other 5% comes from countries like Ethiopia, Mexico, and Brazil.
A fun fact is that opal is Australia’s national gemstone.
Opal was first commercially mined in Australia in 1875. Since the discovery, many different types of opal have been discovered, which means that, besides the white opal, we now have black, crystal, jelly, fire, honey, and other opals.
The most valued of all types of opals is the black opal, though.
When there is such a mesmerizing stone, it’s only natural to wonder – how did this come to be? Is opal natural or artificial?
1. Natural Opal
Well, opal’s chemical makeup is quite simple – silicon dioxide and water.
It’s a natural stone, and the way it’s formed is by water running down the Earth and seeping into the crevasses of a rock. Once the water evaporates, the silica will dry out and harden, forming a precious opal.
2. Man-Made Opal (Opalite)
But what about artificial opal? We know that diamonds can be made in the lab – and they even have the same chemical makeup as natural ones.
Is it the same with opal, though?
The answer is – no. Technically, we have a stone named Opalite, but it has nothing to do with the natural gemstone known as opal.
It’s merely a variation made of glass that resembles opal but has no chemical similarities with the natural gem. Actually, “Opalite” is an umbrella term used for all opal-like gemstones that were made artificially.
However, there is a slight trap here.
We actually have a natural stone called Green Opalite or Cat’s Eye Opalite. This stone is found in the US, Australia, Tanzania, Slovakia, Mexico, etc.
Don’t be too worried about telling these two Opalites apart: The natural one has a distinct, almost olive green color to it and is usually shaped in a cat-eye shape. So, there shouldn’t be any confusion.
Diamonds – A Brief Introduction
Diamonds are a form of carbon with their atoms arranged in a crystal-like structure. They are formed under the surface of the Earth over the period of millions, sometimes even billions of years. And the conditions have to be a perfect combination of heat and pressure.
Once they’re fully formed, natural occurrences, such as volcanic eruptions, bring them to the surface, where they can be mined. This process and the difficulty and dangers of mining are some of the main reasons for the high price of diamonds.
Since we are highly dependent on the Earth to create these natural crystals, diamonds are very rare because it takes so long for that to happen. That rarity creates a sort of mystery and makes them almost unattainable.
All of this makes people want them even more.
An added bonus of diamonds is that they are the hardest natural substance on Earth, making them useful for things other than filling up jewelry boxes.
Diamonds are now being used for industrial purposes, like cutting and grinding extremely hard materials; they are used to create electronic and optical devices, etc. These beautiful gems are also incredibly useful!
A drawback in this situation is precisely the fact that diamonds are expensive. Luckily, people have come up with a solution for this, too – and that’s our next point.
Lab diamonds are made in labs – shocker, we know – under controlled conditions and for much less time. Not to mention that the whole arduous mining process is also excluded.
An addition is that these diamonds have the same chemical makeup as natural diamonds, so they are able to provide the same durability as their natural counterparts.
And while lab diamonds aren’t as desired in the jewelry business – not counting those looking to save a buck or two – they are very much sought after for industrial purposes.
Diamonds Vs. Opals: What Are They Worth?
We’ve established that both opal and diamonds are very rare and worth a lot. But how much is “a lot” in this case?
First of all, we need to clarify that price and worth are two very different things. Here, we’re only going to be focusing on worth.
Many factors determine how much a diamond or an opal is worth, so the matter of “how much” is a relatively complex one.
The worth of a diamond mostly comes down to the 4 Cs.
We mostly associate carats with gold and its purity, but that’s not the only category they’re used in, as you’re about to see. In fact, this term has a different meaning when referring to gold and precious stones.
On the one hand, “carat” – sometimes spelled “karat” – is used to measure the purity of gold, and on the other, carats are also used to measure the weight of a precious stone. So, the meaning depends on the context in which you’re using it.
One carat equals 200 milligrams, which is further divided into 100 points in the standardized carat metric system. For example, half of a carat would translate into a 50 point diamond.
So, the more carats, the higher the price!
This one is specific since it has to do with the craftsman that cuts the diamond – it’s not a natural characteristic.
That is such an essential aspect of a diamond because it determines how much light will reflect through the diamond. Additionally, the size and proportions of a diamond play a role in how it’ll be cut – and how it will reflect light.
In combination with the polish of a diamond’s surface, you get the best effect.
What we mean by clarity is diamond’s purity. A diamond can be “flawed” both on the inside and the outside. Internal flaws are called inclusions, and external flaws are blemishes. Both of these play a role in determining a diamond’s worth.
The fewer the flaws, the higher the worth.
What’s interesting is that the naked eye cannot see the majority of these minor flaws. Only when examined with the right equipment and by experts, can these inclusions or blemishes be seen.
However, regardless of whether you see it, it’s there – and those determining the price can very much tell if it’s there.
Diamonds are found in many different colors – but the most popular and the one worth the most is the white or colorless diamond.
The reason for this is that the lack of color enables more light to pass through the diamond, making the diamond – well, more sparkly in simple terms.
White diamonds can range anywhere from completely colorless to light brown or yellow and, in some cases, even gray. They are graded from “D,” which is a completely colorless diamond, to “Z” – one with noticeable color.
The more colorless a white gem is, the more it’s worth.
Learn More: Can Diamonds Change Color? Can Diamonds Discolour?
When it comes to opal, more factors determine its worth compared to the 4 Cs of a diamond. To be precise, there are ten of them:
Red is the rarest, and in turn, the most sought-after color of the opal. After the red, you have the orange, green, blue, and purple opal.
But keep in mind that opal is never just one color. These colors we’ve talked about are just the dominant color – but others are always present.
2. Play Of Color
This factor refers to the variety of colors that can be seen within the opal. The primary color is also what’s looked at in relation to other present colors.
3. Body Tone
The body tone is one of the essential factors in determining the worth of an opal. What this term refers to is the underlying color of the gem.
It can range from black to a very light, almost white color. Opals with a darker body tone tend to be worth more since the play of color within the gem can be more visible with a dark background.
Because of this, the black opal is the one worth the most.
There are different types of “faults” that can devalue an opal stone, such as inclusions, potch lines, cracks, and vegetation patterns.
All of these affect the value of a gemstone – but in different ways. While any opal with these flaws is considered – well, flawed, some have gained popularity precisely because of one of these “faults.”
It depends on who the customer is.
The more unique the pattern, the more valued an opal gemstone is. The most beloved pattern is the Harlequin pattern – but it is also the rarest.
Other popular patterns are Broad flash, Rolling flash, Rainbow, Honeycomb, Block, and so on; we just named a few here.
Opals with little to no pattern are usually less valuable.
According to the opal brightness guide, there are seven sub brightness ratings, with B1 being the brightest and B7 being the dullest.
The same rule goes here – the brighter the opal, the higher the value.
The oval shape is usually more valued than free form, except for the boulder opal. In that case, free form is better.
The reason shape is essential is that it allows for greater versatility.
8. Opal Field
Different mines have different reputations. So, opals that come from mines known for producing higher quality opals will generally be worth more.
9. Natural Or Treated
Expectedly, natural opals are worth more. When buying an opal, you need to look out for treated opals being sold as natural ones.
Treatment isn’t permanent, so in time you’ll be able to see the gem that you thought was genuinely black-colored start to fade.
10. Country Of Origin
Australian opals have the best global reputation, but other countries now produce good and unique opals, too.
Which Is Worth More? Is Opal Worth More Than Diamond?
Both of these are relatively rare to come across, but even that is not always the case. Getting an opal may be somewhat easy – but those are usually lower-quality opals.
If you want a good, high-quality opal in your possession, getting it will be a more complicated process.
The difference between opals and diamonds is the fact that even the lowest-quality diamond will have a high price – while the same cannot be said for opals.
In deciding which of the two is worth more, the rarity aspect is one of the most important.
There are much more diamonds in the world than there are opals. And, even the lower quality diamonds with some inclusions can still be sold at sky-high prices. Opals, on the other hand, are also somewhat common – at least lower quality ones in particular.
The most perfect, rarest opal is the black opal with the harlequin pattern. Now, these gemstones are the real deal: These opals are much rarer than diamonds which makes them worth more.
Both diamonds and opals are gems or crystals with a high reputation – so it’s only natural to wonder which of the two is worth more.
Hopefully, we were able to explain where their worth comes from and, in the end, tell you if opals are worth more than diamonds.
Black opal is the rarest and worth the most – even more than diamonds – but other opals aren’t.
Quality and rarity play a considerable role in deciding a gem’s worth, so lower-quality, common opals aren’t worth more than lower-quality diamonds.
Now that you have this knowledge, we’ll let you make your educated choice.