Precious opal is arguably the most dazzling of all gemstones because, in the very best specimens, we see many gorgeous colors in a single stone.  Remember this blog post where we see an Australian opal miner crack open  nuggets to reveal the stunning hues of an opal vein?

This play of color is what makes opal so sought after even though it is not a hard stone. It ranges from 5.0- 6.5 on the Mohs Scale. That is because it is not a true mineral as it does not have the strong crystalline structure of other gemstones like sapphire. diamonds etc. Opal jewelry should be treated and stored with care to avoid scratches. Opal rings should not be worn when doing the dishes, for example!

The most expensive of all opals is black opal. Watch this Insider short documentary on why it is so. 

Spare a thought for the lapidarists who work with the best opals. Cutting up a nugget to yield the maximum play of color and number of very expensive cabochons is nerve-wrecking.  

Watch this Australian lapidarist, Justin of BlackOpalDirect wrestle with the decisions he needed to make before he sliced the nugget. His livelihood depends on his experience and skill.  The 3 cabochons he ultimately cut and polished were worth a total of over $20,000!

Potch is an Australian slang word for inferior opal. 

While Australia is the biggest source of opals in the world, the gemstone can also be found in other parts of the world - including the US -  as shown in this video

Common opals are more affordable for those of us with limited budgets!  And the lower grade opals with less clarity and less play of color might also work. Here is a selection of opal cabochons to look over.  All are not overly expensive.

My favorites are below. These are solid gemstones not opal doublets or triplets. Opal slices can be glued to a black backing to imitate a solid gemstone. See this article about opal doublets vs triplets

Natural Peruvian Blue Opal with a little green from MUSKANGEMSHOUSE

These are unusually matched Ethiopian Welo opal cabochons with many colors from PurityGems.  Ethiopia is becoming the second most popular source of opals after Australia. The opals from there are generally more affordable.   Welo opals are from the Wollo province of Ethiopia. They are translucent or transparent and the good ones are colorful!

Most opals are cabochons. But there are some faceted ones like these beauties also from PurityGems

Can't afford black fire opal?  Consider crushed black fire opal - tiny, tiny pieces for wood inlay and resin work! Very affordable. These are from MyWorldofWood

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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM