The main difference between opal and opalite is that opal is a natural gemstone that shows play of color, whereas synthetic opalite does not show play of color.
Opals are semiprecious gemstones that have many shimmery, partly translucent colors, while opalite simply refers to synthetic opals or impure varieties of common opals. Both opals and natural opalites show a play of color, which is an optical phenomenon that occurs when the light that enters the opal passes through the gaps between the silica spheres.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Opal
– Definition, Features
2. What is Opalite
– Definition, Features
3. Difference Between Opal and Opalite
– Comparison of Key Differences
Opal, Opalite, Gemstone
What is Opal
Opals are one of the most popular gemstones in the world. They are typically considered semiprecious stones. But the best opals can match the price of expensive diamonds, rubies, sapphires, or emeralds. Opals are the birthstones for the month of opals. When considering their chemical composition, opals are made of hydrous silicon dioxide and have the chemical symbol SiO2nH2O. They are amorphous and do not have a crystalline structure or a definite chemical composition. Therefore, we consider opals as mineraloids rather than minerals. Opals are not as hard as most other gemstones. Their hardness on the Mohs scale is about 5.5 to 6.0. Therefore, most people use them on jewelry that does not receive substantial abrasion and impact during wear. For example, pendants, earrings, and brooches.
Opals have multiple colors. They have small spheres of silica arranged in a regular pattern, and there is water between the spheres. These spheres diffract white light, giving the colors of the spectrum. We call this process ‘opalescence’ or ‘play of color.’ Large spheres give out all colors, while small spheres only give out greens and blues. There are different types and colors and types of opals. White opals give out pale colors on a lighter background, while black opals give out colors ranging from bright red to greens, blues, and purples and have a dark background. Black opals are very valuable and rare. Fire opals are known for their deep red, orange, and yellow colors. Boulder opals, on the other hand, are opals with attached host rocks. Australia, Ethiopia, and Mexico are countries known for opal production.
What is Opalite
Opalite simply refers to synthetic opals or impure varieties of common opals. Synthetic opalites are typically made from opalescent glass and various opal and moonstone simulants. Natural opaliteisn’t synthetic, but a naturally occurring green or purple common opal that’s heavily included and often shows cat’s eye effect. Some other names for opalites include opal moonstones, sea opals, and argenon.
Most people recognize synthetic opalite as opalescent pearl-blue rocks, but they actually come in many different colors as well. The most noticeable feature of opalites is their lustrous play of color, which creates the glowing illusion of phosphorescence. The brilliance of opalite is sometimes even higher than that of natural opal. Moreover, opalite is much easier to find and is more affordable than opal.
Difference Between Opal and Opalite
Opal is a semiprecious gemstone that has many shimmery, partly translucent colors, while opalite is a synthetic opal or an impure variety of common opal.
Opals are produced naturally, while opalites can be made synthetic or natural.
Play of Color
Opals show a play of color, whereas synthetic opalites do not show a play of color.
Opalites are easier to find in the market than opals.
Opalites are more affordable than opals.
Opal is a semiprecious gemstone that has many shimmery, partly translucent colors, while opalite is a synthetic opal or an impure variety of common opal. The main difference between opal and opalite is that opal is a natural gemstone that shows play of color whereas synthetic opalite does not show play of color.
1. “Opal.” GeoScience Australia. Australian Government.
2. “Opalite: History, Symbolism, Meanings & More.” Opal Auctions.
1. “Opal-53714” By Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com (CC-BY-SA-3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “10-20MM Tumble Polished Opalite” By Albion Fire and Ice – (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
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