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Lab-Created Opal

21 June 2024
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Lab-created opals are synthetic gemstones that mimic the internal structure, physical properties, chemical composition, and appearance of natural opals. These man-made wonders, composed mainly of hydrated silica, are available in a variety of colors and often exhibit superior hardness and a broader range of colors compared to their natural counterparts. Many jewelers and buyers prefer lab-created opals due to their affordability, availability, and striking resemblance to natural opals.

The journey of lab-created opals began in the 1960s when scientists uncovered the play-of-color potential in these gemstones. Since the first discovery in 1964, numerous advancements have been made, placing opals among the most popular gemstones used today.


How Are Lab-Created Opals Made?

The creation of lab-made opals involves a meticulous process:

1. Precipitation of Silica Spheres: Uniform silica spheres are precipitated.

2. Settling and Binding: These spheres settle into an array and are filled with a binder that hardens, drawing the spheres together to form a structure capable of diffracting light.

3. Improving Luster and Color: The final step involves enhancing the luster, color, and translucence, often surpassing natural opals.


Uses of Lab-Created Opal

Lab-created opals find application in various domains due to their versatile beauty and durability:



These gemstones are frequently used in luxury jewelry pieces such as necklaces, earrings, and rings, often set in precious metals like gold, silver, and titanium. Beyond traditional jewelry, opals are also used to adorn vases, art pieces, and musical instruments.

With their striking appearance and wide color range, lab-created opals are a favorite in art exhibitions. Artists and designers value these stones for their beauty and affordability.


Luxury Glasswork Detail

Opals are incorporated into decorative glassworks, including ceilings and windows, adding a touch of elegance to structures like cathedrals and domes.


Fast-Dry Gel

Manufacturers like Kyocera use lab-made opals in fast-dry gels for products such as fingernail polish and decorative paints, showcasing the gemstone's versatility.


Maintenance Tips for Lab-Created Opal

To maintain the beauty of lab-created opals, follow these tips:

- Wipe with a soft, damp cotton cloth and let air dry.

- Rub with a dry, soft cotton cloth to retain shine.

- Clean with a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar.

- Store in an airtight, cushioned container.

Avoid harsh chemicals, as they can weaken the polymer resin that binds the opal.


Authenticating Lab-Created vs. Natural Opals

Distinguishing between lab-created and natural opals can be challenging. Here are key identifiers:


Lizard Skin Effect: Synthetic opals often exhibit a systematic ordering of color blocks, resembling lizard skin.


Columnar Structure: When viewed from the side, synthetic opals may show neatly lined columns, unlike the solid structure of natural opals.


Porosity: Synthetic opals are more porous and lighter than natural opals.


UV Light Reaction: Lab-created opals do not shine under UV light as natural opals do.



Lab-created opals are a remarkable alternative to natural opals, offering beauty, durability, and affordability. Whether used in jewelry, art, or decorative items, these gemstones continue to captivate and inspire. 

By understanding their creation, uses, and maintenance, you can appreciate the unique allure of lab-created opals and make informed choices when adding them to your collection.