Monday, July 17, 2017

"Opalite" Opal Simulant, Kyocera "Opals"---Not Really Opals

Someone read my blog post about the glass "opalite" that I've written about HERE.   They commented about a synthetic (created) Opal that is sold as opalite, and how it wasn't glass.  I responded, but I thought I'd write a little about it here also.

Back in the 1970s or early '80s, a Japanese company was manufacturing a plastic simulated opal and called it "opalite".  They had claimed it was a cultured opal, or lab-grown opal.  In the jewelry world, the word "synthetic" doesn't mean "fake"---it means a gemstone that is cultured that has the SAME chemical, physical and optical properties as its natural counterpart.  This would mean that a synthetic gemstone (such as synthetic ruby or sapphire, for example) is IDENTICAL to a mined gem, but would be flawless.

Plastic Opalite from GIA (1989)
In the 1980s, the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) did some tests on this "opalite" Opal product.  It was found to be PLASTIC, not an opal, and was identical to a lot of other simulated opal products found. 

Per the GIA: 
"A plastic imitation opal that shows true play-of-color was advertised as "new" and offered for sale under the trade name "Opalite" at the Gem and Lapidary Dealers Association (GLDA) Tucson show in February 1988. Subsequent gemological testing proved that this material was virtually identical to the plastic imitation opal previously described in the literature that was known to be manufactured in Japan. It is now being marketed worldwide under a new name"

HERE is a link to the pdf file from 1989 that is interesting to read, and has all the findings.

Tested by GIA--NOT synthetic
Now, a Japanese company is manufacturing a Kyocera "opal" that is also NOT a true synthetic opal.  It is manufactured in blocks. It does NOT have the same chemical and physical properties of a genuine Opal and is therefore not a synthetic or cultured opal----it is a simulated opal.  A "simulated" gem (in this case Opal) is just something that is made to LOOK LIKE a gemstone---it's not a synthetic, which is grown and IS a gem, although manmade. 
Blocks of *simulated* opal --- not genuine Opal

HERE is a very interesting article from the GIA regarding Kyocera opals---no longer marketed as "opalite" by the way.  The conclusion in those findings is that the Kyocera opals are just simulants, not synthetics.  In other words, they are NOT opals.

While looking at images of Kyocera simulated opals, I found that there is a jewelry designer that is selling this simulated opal as "Kyocera opal" set in base metals (plated brass) for premium prices.  Buyer beware---a higher price tag gives the illusion of quality (basic Marketing 101) but doesn't mean it's genuine.    Here are some examples of the colors of SIMULATED (not real!) opals used:

None of these are opals---all are Kyocera SIMULATED Opals
This is considered "fashion jewelry" or "costume jewelry", not fine jewelry which incorporates genuine gems set in precious metals (gold, silver, plastinum). 


Opalite Glass--NOT a gem
In the early 1990s or around the time that this particular "opalite" opal was tested and confirmed to be just plastic, manufacturers in Hong Kong began making an iridescent glass that was known as "opalite glass".  Sellers seem to have forgotten the word "glass" in describing this material now, which is why I've written about it several times.  Current "Opalite" products sold are IRIDESCENT GLASS, and nothing more. 

Opalite has an iridescent glow that changes color when held against a dark or a light background.  It's more blue against darker colors, and more golden or pink against light colors.
Opalite--note the color changes

Another blogger concludes that this isn't even glass, but is plastic with cellophane inside!  Perhaps that's true, and some are plastic, but the ones I've seen in person have been glass.  Either way---NOT a gem!

The same designer I mentioned above who sells simulated Kyocera opals, is also selling Opalite.  Here's a great example of how colorless this glass (plastic?) is against a light background:

Opalite (glass) earrings---not gems

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