Opals vs. triplets

This item appears on page 25 of the August 2010 issue.

Please see the follow-up letter, Opals in Australia. —Editor

I bought what I believed were four loose opals for AUD196 (US$122) at Rochi's Opals, a major jeweler in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan. 4, 2010. Back home in Santa Fe on Jan. 9, my trusted local jeweler alerted me that what I thought were pure opals were not*.

He told me that what shops often do in Australia is sell a thin veneer of opal attached to another stone. The result is called a triplet or doublet opal. I had asked for an opal, not knowing about opal toppings on other materials. The sales clerk in Melbourne assured me that the opals for offer were all of the same quality.

My jeweler has had many customers come back from Australia thinking they had bought solid opals and finding out they had not. We only know about mine because I bought loose gems instead of rings.

If you’re determined to buy opals in Australia, stipulate that you want a SOLID opal and not a triplet or doublet. Make sure the receipt says “solid opal.” The sales clerk wrote “T/O loose stones” on my receipt and not “opals.”

I am writing to the shop as well as to Tourism Australia to see if they can mandate that sellers stipulate solid, triplet or doublet opals as a condition of sale.


Santa Fe, NM


There are five branches of Rochi's Opals in the Melbourne area. ITN mailed a copy of Ms. Scheithauer’s complaint to the store she visited (at 107 Russell St., Melbourne, Vic 3000, Australia) and received no reply. ITN also wrote to Tourism Australia (6100 Center Dr., Ste. 1150, Los Angeles, CA 90045) and received the following reply.

We are sorry to hear that your reader Nanci had a bad experience during her stay in Australia. However, Tourism Australia is a marketing organization and we do not have regulatory powers. We are therefore unable to intervene in such matters.

We suggest that Nanci raise her concerns with Rochi's Opals directly. If she is unhappy with their response, she should lodge a complaint with the Department of Resources, Energy & Tourism.

CLARE SADLER, Marketing Coordinator, Tourism Australia


Ms. Scheithauer received no reply from Rochi's Opals and got the same reply from Tourism Australia that ITN did. She forwarded her complaint to the Department of Resources, Energy & Tourism and received no reply. ITN e-mailed the department on April 19, 2010, and the next day received the message, “We will endeavor to reply to your email within five working days,” but has had no further reply.


*After Ms. Scheithauer's letter was printed in ITN, the following letter was received, which was printed in the October 2010 issue. — Editor

In the letter from Nanci Scheithauer titled “Opals vs. Triplets” (Aug. ’10, pg. 25), regarding her dissatisfaction with a purchase of opals in Australia, it appears there was a problem of language.

While not an expert, I have studied gemology and purchased precious and semiprecious stones all over the world for more than 40 years. I can’t say anything for certain without knowing the color and size of the stones that Nanci purchased, but I suspect she actually got a good deal.

I have not priced loose opals for some years, but the set opals I saw in Australia in February-March ’10 were very pricey. Still, all the shops in which I looked, even the “discount” shops, were very up front about indicating which ones were solid, doublets, triplets or boulders. (A doublet is a thin slice of opal that has been attached to another piece of stone. A boulder opal is an opal within a rock.)

I suspect the problem arose when Nanci used the term “pure” when she meant “solid.” The opals she bought are probably pure, in that they had not been adulterated in any way (by heat or dying, for example, as is done with some other stones), but she wanted solid opals.

Australia produces more than 90% of the opals in the world, and wherever they are sold in the world the terms used are the same. The price is commensurate with the kind of stone, with solid being the most expensive and a doublet, triplet and boulder each less expensive.

Opals are classified according to color, as well — white, black, fire, blue, etc. — which affects the price. It is possible that the stones of the size and color that Nanci bought would have cost 10 times what she paid if they were solid stones.

The letter and its headline in ITN imply that a triplet is not an opal, but it is. It simply is not a solid opal.

A telltale sign — with loose stones, all doublets, triplets and boulders that I have seen were obviously not solid opals because the back of each was not the same as the front.

As with all purchases contemplated to be made abroad, a little homework before departure would save a lot of grief.


Contributing Editor, ITN