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Synthetic Opals – Duplicating Nature’s Beauty

White Polished Gilson Snythetic Opals
White Polished Gilson Snythetic Opals

Has man been able to duplicate nature in creating synthetic or imitation opals with the beautiful colors seen in fiery gem opal?

Opal lovers the world over have always believed that sooner or later other gems were bound to be reproduced in the laboratory by man, but opal — Never!  Not so, however! It is true! Pierre Gilson, formerly of France and now Geneva, Switzerland (who has also created the Gilson emerald and turquoise), has now produced an opal gemstone with all the likeness and beauty of those which are dug from the earth! In fact, the, latest development from the Gilson research laboratories is the most prized type of all — that rare beauty — the black opal!

Rough Australian Natural Opal
Rough Australian Natural Opal

Lest there be some confusion about “imitation” and “synthetic” gemstones Jet’s clear up that one: An “imitation” gemstone is one which simulates the appearance, and perhaps other characteristics, of the genuine stone found in nature. A “synthetic” gemstone is a duplication of what nature created, with all the same characteristics (chemical properties, density, refractive index, crystal structure, luster, etc.) — in effect, a synthetic gemstone is the same thing as produced in nature only it is produced in laboratories by men!

It is uncertain how long it may have taken for nature to produce a given opal — or how much longer it lay in the earth before being discovered. It requires between one to 1½ years to “make” an opal in the Gilson laboratories. The processes involved in production of these new man-made opals is exceedingly complicated, and requires the use of most sophisticated laboratory equipment by skilled scientists. At all times during the long period of its “growth,” the created opal must be guarded and monitored carefully, day and night, with temperatures, pressure, etc. closely controlled. The opal made in a large “chunk,” which is cut into gemstones before the opal is offered for sale.

Rough Natural Precious Opal
Rough Natural Precious Opal

To distinguish these opals from an opal produced in nature requires careful and technical examination by a skilled expert. Ultraviolet light tests, photographic tests, and specialized microscopic examinations, properly applied, will enable the trained observer to separate one from the other.

The Gilson opals are available from dealers and jewelers, and they do command a price quite comparable to the natural opals of similar quality. The reports we hear are that they are quite “stable” — that is — free from the tendency to cracking. Do keep on the lookout for these Gilson created gems — they are not likely to be misrepresented, and you are sure to enjoy seeing a beautiful gem!