In ancient times Bedouins believed that opals contained lightning and fell from the sky during thunderstorms. Opals have been compared to galaxies, rainbows, and volcanoes. A vast diversity of legends and myths surrounds opals and their origins. Indeed, opal is a mysterious stone. While looking at its kaleidoscope of colors it is easy to imagine there is an entire galaxy trapped inside the stone.
This mystery is frequently exploited in order to attach unreasonably hefty price tags to opal jewelry. No matter how mysterious and fascinating this gemstone is, there should be no room for any mystery regarding its price.
Opals & Their Value in a Nutshell
For a long time, opals were extremely scarce and extremely expensive. They were more expensive than diamonds. That was before two major events took place. The first was the influx of Australian opals in the late 1800’s. The second being opals mined in Ethiopia entering the gem and jewelry market in 1994. These two events have put the pricy gemstone within reach of an average Joe.
Opals are praised for their play-of-color. There are two broad categories of opal: precious and common. Precious opal displays play-of-color, whereas common opal does not.
Opals with the most intensive play-of-color are the most valuable.
There are millions of tiny silica spheres within precious opal. These spheres act as a diffraction grating, separating white light into its component colors. Thus, the internal structure of precious opal causes it to diffract light, and this diffraction results in play-of-color.
It is interesting to note that opal contains water, up to 21% by weight. That results in lower specific gravity and lower hardness. Therefore, opals are much more brittle than many other gemstones.
Opal is the birthstone for those born in October.
Opal Necklaces at Online Stores: Should You Buy One There?
Long story short: the prices of opal necklaces range from very high to insanely high at online stores. If you judged just by the prices at online stores, you would get the impression that opal jewelry is an extremely luxurious product. Definitely not an average buyer’s choice.
So, let’s see why buying an opal necklace at an online store might not be a very good idea.
No matter whether Irene Neuwirth is a big name in the jewelry industry or not, a whopping $11,720 for an opal necklace is totally insane. A string of average quality opal beads is just a string of average quality opal beads regardless of whether it has been strung by Mrs. Neuwirth or yourself.
The price at KosnarGemCo is way better than that at ylang23. Yet, it’s far from being reasonable.
Four times as much luxury cannot be cheap, no doubt about it. However, does it really have to come with a price tag of $12,000? Is it really worth so much money?
This opal necklace has very poor play-of-color and a gold-filled clasp instead of solid gold. Still, its price is $1800. Opals must be damn expensive, right?
And a few more opal necklaces at other online stores (below):
This necklace at Partita Jewelry is one of the lowest-priced opal necklaces I could find while browsing through online stores. However, don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s the deal of a lifetime. What is then?
Stay tuned, we’ll get to that.
Are Online Auctions a Better Alternative?
Those who have read my previous posts know that I’m a big fan of online auctions. You can find truly amazing deals there. Some of the best deals I have ever had were at online auctions.
So, let’s see what they have to offer at online auctions.
You can immediately see the difference – the price is substantially lower than what you get at online stores. Plus, these opals have really nice play-of-color. Remember, opals with the most intensive play-of-color are the most valuable.
These opals do not seem to have an intensive play-of-color. In addition, this necklace is not brand new, its condition is stated as “previously owned”. Nevertheless, the price is pretty high.
I know, I know, I haven’t delivered on my promise yet. I have proven a point that it is way better to buy an opal necklace at an online auction than at a store, but I promised to tell you how to get an opal necklace with a 14K gold clasp for less than $100 instead.
No worries, I haven’t forgotten that. Here you go.
An Opal Necklace with a 14K Gold Clasp for Less Than $100? Easy!
It’s pretty simple. What you need to do is buy an opal necklace at eBay. You probably think I’m talking rubbish now. There is a screenshot of an opal necklace from eBay right above (Figure 12), and the price is nowhere near $100…
The thing is that you have to look for opal necklaces without gold clasps. The moment it has a gold clasp the price skyrockets. Look for opal necklaces with the simplest metal clasps.
I believe you might find it somewhat confusing that a string of natural Ethiopian opals comes with a cheap metal alloy clasp. In addition, some of these sellers have pretty poor feedback scores (around 95% or even less). Well, what can I say? I have been buying dozens of these necklaces, have tested them at the assay office, and they all turned out to be natural opal beads. No bad surprises.
If you have read this post, then you know that seller feedback scores cannot be trusted blindly. It’s not to say they should be disregarded completely, but take them with a grain of salt.
Sometimes you can get them cheaper. Sometimes you have to pay a few bucks more. Bigger beads will cost slightly more.
Normally I don’t use the “buy it now” option because I really do like auctions and bidding. And on most occasions, you can get a better price that way. But occasionally you can find really nice “buy it now” offers, too.
By the way, here are a few really good tips on how to bid to win on eBay and pay less.
Note, these opal beads above are rather big, the play-of-color looks pretty good, and the price is more than reasonable.
So, the next thing you need is a gold clasp. There is an abundance of them at eBay, and they cost next to nothing actually. Both opal necklaces and gold clasps come with free shipping.
Now you have everything you need for your super nice opal necklace with a 14K gold clasp at a total cost of just $37 to $58.50. Not bad, right?
If you are a fan of DIY, restringing and changing the clasp will cost you nothing. It’s rather easy. If you need someone to help you with this, it will cost you 20 bucks or so.
In any case, now you have your opal necklace with a 14K gold clasp for less than $100. Maybe even for less than $50.
Is it any different from (or worse than) what they sell you for thousands of dollars at online stores or auctions? As a matter of fact, it isn’t. So, why pay more?
Opal Necklaces with Expensive, Ornate Clasps
Expensive clasps are an interesting phenomenon in the jewelry industry. They are frequently used in order to justify the hefty price tags of otherwise not so expensive jewelry.
To put it simply, an expensive clasp makes the entire piece of jewelry look more expensive. A clasp set, let’s say, with diamonds makes the potential buyer think that the piece of jewelry must be expensive. It’s pretty obvious and logical reasoning. Why would anyone use an ornate, expensive clasp with an inexpensive piece of jewelry?
On most occasions, this approach works very well. The item looks expensive, and the potential buyer believes it actually is expensive. Mission accomplished.
The truth is that an expensive clasp does not necessarily tell anything about the value of the jewelry.
Remember, no clasp can justify paying price multiple times higher than what you would otherwise pay. And if you feel that you need something more exquisite, no problem, you can have an 18K gold clasp with diamonds for your opal necklace, too. It doesn’t mean the price has to skyrocket.
Marketing and trade use various ploys to take more bucks out of our pockets. Fair enough. Ultimately, it is your choice whether you want to play by their rules or not.
Our philosophy at ShopperLib is that it is foolish to pay your hard-earned dollars to those who create no added value for you. If a product is unique, it has a truly special, elaborate design, or exceptional quality, then no problem, go ahead and pay for it.
Paying a high price for real luxury is perfectly ok, but paying big bucks merely for a mirage of luxury isn’t very wise.
At ShopperLib, we believe that it is much better to buy ten items than to pay tenfold for one item that is in no way better. We believe that if a seller cannot offer true added value, he does not deserve our hard-earned dollars.
If you share this view, join the Community!
Be smart. Shop smart.