Fire opal is a variety of opal that comes in red, orange, and yellow colors. Since many fire opals are found in Mexico, they are sometimes referred to as Mexican opals.
In general, opal is a very soft gemstone (5.5-6.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness), and fire opal is no exception. It is certainly not the most durable gemstone you can find, but it surely is pretty beautiful.
Here are some tips to help you when buying a fire opal:
Evaluating the Color of Fire Opal
In general, the rarer the color of a gemstone, the more sought after and expensive it is. When it comes to fire opals, the most valuable color is red.
Orange and yellow are a bit more common and cheaper, but these hues are still among the most expensive compared with other opal colors.
Whatever the color of a fire opal, the more intense its hue, the more valuable it is.
For example, stones with a saturated red color are more expensive than those with a pale reddish hue.
In addition, fire opals that have high brilliance, i.e., stones whose colors are bright, are more valuable than gems with more subdued and duller hues.
Fire Opal and Clarity
Fire opals that have fewer internal flaws (inclusions) look cleaner and are more valuable than more heavily included stones.
Although perfectly clean fire opals are rare, and it is natural for a stone to have some inclusions, you should stay away from gems that have cracks.
These flaws usually run through the inside of the stone up to its surface and can put the integrity of the gem at risk.
Look for fire opals that look reasonably clean to the naked eye and whose tone is as even as possible. Stones that have big and visible flaws, especially when they are located prominently, should be discounted.
The bigger a fire opal, the more expensive it is. This is so not only because of the sheer size of the stone but also because larger gemstones are rarer (and they often cost more per carat).
However, keep in mind that bigger stones are also likely to have more visible flaws.
Fire opals are usually cut in an oval shape, but you can also see faceted gems in a round or another form. It is up to your personal taste what type of cut you prefer.
However, if you are considering a faceted stone, keep in mind that because opal is relatively soft, the edges of its facets will become less sharp with time depending on how often you wear the gemstone.
Doublets and Triplets
Doublets are gemstones created by attaching one layer of glass-like or plastic material to the back of a real opal.
In addition to that layer on the back, triplets have a transparent layer on the top of the gemstone. These additions make an opal look bigger and are often colored to make the stone’s hue seem more saturated.
Since the real opal in doublets and triplets is a usually just a thin slice, these forms are cheaper than solid opals of similar size.
However, keep in mind that doublets and triplets are also less durable – the layers can get damaged, and the stone can become cloudy when repeatedly exposed to water.
Where to Buy Opal Jewelry?
For opal jewelry, we highly recommend that you take a look at the great selection of opal pieces available at Amazon as well as Ross-Simons and Reeds Jewelers.