Opalite vs. Opal: How to Tell the Difference


Opal is a beautiful gemstone which often reflects a translucent rainbow of colors.

Although many people know that one is natural and one is a synthetic derivative, many people get confused between opalite vs opal and might wonder, or even forget, which is which. This article is intended to help the reader differentiate between the two.

Opal: The Natural Variety

Opal is a naturally occurring gemstone formed from a unique combination of water and silicon dioxide.

It is primarily found in Australia, which produces around 95% of the world’s supply, but can also be found in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, and Ethiopia. Opal forms in the cavities of rocks over a long period of time, as water carrying dissolved silica evaporates and leaves behind the silica deposits. These deposits eventually harden and solidify, resulting in the formation of opal.

There are several types of opal, such as white opal, black opal, fire opal, and boulder opal, with each one having its own distinct color pattern.

The value of an opal is determined by factors such as the intensity and range of colors, the size of the stone, and the type of opal. It is much more expensive than the synthetic derivative and many believe it to showcase a wider variety of colors and beauty.

Opal Gemstone
Opal Gemstone

Opalite: A Man-Made Glass

Opalite is the synthetic derivative and is man-made. Although it is not found in nature, it is much cheaper in price and due to it being man-made, it is not to hard to find near perfect stones, with minimal inclusions. The term opalite can also be used to refer to Bertrandite or Tiffany stone.

The colors of opalite are typically less vibrant and varied compared to those of natural opal.

Opalite Gemstones
Opalite Gemstones


Unfortunately, opalite is sometimes sold as opal, at the opal price. If you are purchasing opal, it is important to check and make sure that you are receiving real opal, rather than the synthetic derivative.

Another one to watch out for is green opalite, which is also known as opalite cat’s eye. Green opalite is a very different gemstone, and is natural in composition, but it is not a true opal and looks much different.

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