Why Use Lab-Created Crushed Opal Over Natural Opal for Inlaying?
Synthetic opal is an excellent choice for inlay material whether you are a beginner or professional. Here are a few reasons that stand out in comparison to natural opal:
- Natural opal is a hydrated amorphous form of silica that has a water content ranging from as low as 3% to as high as 21%. While there are many ways of stabilizing natural opal, (our) synthetic crushed opal does not contain water and has been stabilized by polymer. Due to being stabilized by polymer, the synthetic crushed opal will experience less cracking and crazing throughout its lifetime.
- Lab-created opal also has a very consistent pattern throughout, which is useful when using small pieces (0.5mm - 2mm) for inlaying in to a ring blank channel. After inlaying the synthetic crushed opal, you will have uniformity throughout the channel. This does not mean that you lose any brilliance from the fire that synthetic crushed opal displays, but it is less random than a natural occurring opal specimen. It is still an incredible sight, and I personally enjoy wearing some form of synthetic opal jewelry every day.
- The hardness of (our) synthetic crushed opal is around a 4 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, while natural opal is generally 5.5-6.5. Although that does not seem like a major difference, it certainly helps prolong the life of your tools while cutting and polishing the crushed opal.
- Silica is the most abundant element found in the crust of the earth. It is commonly used to manufacture glass and a wide variety of other materials. Since (our) synthetic opal is comprised of Silica and Polymer, it does not pose the same environmental risks such as erosion and compaction of soil from mining natural opal.
Although we at The Opal Dealer are big supporters of using synthetic crushed opal for inlaying in jewelry, we do love natural opal as well. We hope that the two can live in harmony because everyone deserves to see the beauty of opal, wether man-made or natural.