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This is a term that is used to describe the wonderful “play of colours” seen inside Precious Opals. The visual effect is similar to viewing a child’s rotating kaleidoscope. It is truly one of the most striking visual effects seen in minerals and the very finest examples sell at prices in excess of equivalent sized Diamonds. If the Opal does not display “play of colour”, it is known as a Common Opal and has little value.
So what causes an Opal’s “play of colour”? Firstly, its structure is one of silica, water and air. The silica is made up of small, round spherical pieces, far bigger than those of atoms found in a crystal; this is best understood by imagining apples stacked in an orderly pattern on a fruit vendor’s cart. The play of colour is seen if the spheres are between 0.2 and 0.5 microns in size, similar to the iridescence seen on the back of a CD, which is caused by similar size differences in the grooves of the track. As light falls on to the spheres, different wavelengths are refracted at different angles from different portions of each sphere, producing an array of beautiful colours.
Beautiful play of colour in this Opal pendant
GIA qualified Gemmologists
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