How do moonstones and opalites differ?

Opalite, Kyocera Opal and Inamori Opal

It is no secret that nowadays there is a synthesis or imitation of every mineral or precious stone - for example made of glass, zirconia or as a cultivated crystal. Even minerals with a variable play of colors can be produced artificially. An example of this is opalite - an opal imitation.


The name opalite (alternatively also opalith) is used in the literature in two ways.

In mineralogy, the mineral opalite is sometimes understood to mean an opal, the the opalescence typical of opals is missing.

Much more often the term opalite is used in connection with artificial opals. At first glance, opalite is difficult to identify from real opal.

Since the early beginnings of opalite production, the technical finesse have steadily improved, so that the grown stones the same iridescent play of colors in the colors of the rainbow in numerous color combinations show like the model from nature.

Just like real opals, opalites are made in Common opals and precious opals differentiated.
While Noble opals through an intense, colorful iridescence distinguish, are Common opals are milky and cloudy with no play of colors (Keyword milk opal). The corresponding opalites without opalescence resemble moonstones due to their milky white, light blue color, which is why the name for these stones Opal moonstone is quite common.

Kyocera opal, Inamori opal and Kyoto opal

The first opalite was made public in the year 1988 on the Tuscon Gem and Mineral Show ** presents. An artificial opal with an intense shimmer like real opals and available in every imaginable color. The culture opal was then in Based on the manufacturer Kyocera-Opal ** called. The company, based in Kyoto / Japan, is primarily known for the manufacture of products in the technology sector, but also manufactures items for household use and fine ceramics.

The first cultivated opals from Japan were created in the early 1980s and, in addition to the name Kyocera opal, were also sold under the terms Kyoto opal and Inamori opal; the latter in honor of Kyocera founder Kazuo Inamori.

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The differences between opalite and opal

In numerous mineralogical reports on opalites, it is said that opalites are not an opal imitation, but a simulation.

The difference between simulation and imitation is considerable, insofar as a mineral imitation is comparable to the original mineral in terms of chemical composition and physical properties. Simulations, on the other hand, are similar to their natural counterparts and, as in the case of opalite, are of lower hardness, density and composition.

Kyocera describes its Kyocera opals as “synthetic, colored opal whose quartz grain structure is identical to naturally occurring opals” (“synthetic colored opals possess a quartz-grain structure that is identical to naturally occurring opal”).

Sometimes opalite is called Opal glass designated. In fact, according to Kyocera, the main ingredient in glass is quartz. Kyocera opals exist too 80% silicon dioxide and 20% resin.

From a mineralogical point of view, opal is a variety of quartz made from silicon dioxide (SiO2) consists. Resin, on the other hand, is a synthetic resin that is used as an inclusion in opal glass to create the optical, opal-typical light effects.

The Opalescence of real opals is microscopic cristobalite beads in the opal, which are embedded in the silica gel matrix containing water of crystallization and which it Interference phenomena of the incident light, which find expression in the play of colors of the opals. Opalites simulate the structure inside the crystal of real opals using resin or polystyrene beads in the nano range (400 to 500 nm).
When viewed under the microscope, the structure is reminiscent of scales or a mosaic.

The use of plastics or synthetic resin is noticeable in the hardness and density of opalite. Natural opal has a hardness of 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale. With a Mohs hardness of 4, opalite is softer than opal.
Something The density of the artificial opal is also lesswhich is 2.20 to 2.24 g / cm³. The density of real opals varies between 1.98 and 2.5 g / cm³ - depending on the proportion of crystal water in the mineral.

The fact that the density of opalite is constant can be explained by the missing or non-existent crystal water. Another difference to real opals. Opals are minerals that contain crystalline water, although the proportion of crystalline water fluctuates. Older opals in particular show less intense opalescence, which is due to the loss of crystal water. For this reason, opal jewelry, for example, should be protected from light and heat and stored with a slightly damp cloth to prevent the mineral from drying out.

Use of opalite

Opalite is particularly important as an inexpensive alternative to real opals for jewelry, with smooth cuts, e.g.

Furthermore, opalite is sold as a healing stone without the healing properties of opalite having been confirmed in clinical studies.

Also interesting:
⇒ Opals from Slovakia - Kosice, Presov and Dubnik
⇒ Slocum stone - An opal imitation
⇒ Mother of pearl - The mother of pearls

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⇒ Korbel, P .; Novak, M. and W. Horwath (2002): Mineralien Enzyklopädie, Dörfler Verlag
⇒ Medenbach, O .; Sussieck-Fornefeld, C .; Steinbach, G. (1996): Steinbach's natural guide minerals. 223 species descriptions, 362 color photos, 250 drawings and 30 pages of identification tables. Mosaik Verlag Munich
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⇒ - Synthetic Colored Opals
⇒ - "OPALITE": Plastic Imitation Opal with true play-of-color. John I. Koivula and Robert C. Kammerling. In: GEMS & GEMOLOGY Spring 1989
⇒ - "Synthetic or Imitation? An Investigation of the products of Kyocera Corporation that show play-of-color". Karl Schmetzer and Ulrich Henn. In: GEMS & GEMOLOGY Fall 1987

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Last updated: September 2, 2020

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