Opals in Different Lighting Conditions

We are often requested to make different lighting scenario videos and photos of our opals. This is because some opals can look different in exposure to different lighting. Please know that we do not provide any additional photos or videos than what is provided as a lot of our stock is kept over different office locations to where our photo studio is located.

There are a few general rules that we have learned about opals and how they look in different lights.

Something to Note about Opals

Precious opal displays play of color, common opal does not. Play of color is defined as a pseudo chromatic optical effect resulting in flashes of colored light from certain minerals, as they are turned in white light. The internal structure of precious opal causes it to diffract light, resulting in play of color. Therefor; color needs light at some form to show its beauty in play of color. Without light, opal will not display this. Opals will therefor always look at their best when shown in as much exposure to light as possible.

A comparison of a boulder opal with direct artificial light vs no light

Artificial Light

All of our photos and videos are taken under direct cool LED Lighting (4 arm directional lighting). This type of lighting shows most opals best colour. If you have an opal and wish to see its best colours and brightness, use a cool desk lamp, or stand directly under a cool LED house light.


All opals will look very nice when exposed to direct sunlight. It is almost similar to what an LED lighting exposure will look like, however will show a bit more of a yellow tinge from the sunshine. We do not usually show opals under direct sunlight for this reason; as they look very similar to what we already provide under artificial lighting.

Low Light

Some opals can look just as stunning in low lighting conditions as they do under direct lighting conditions. This is especially true with white opals. White opals with lower lighting on them can show the colours in them much clearer than with bright exposure to light. This is because of the lighter body tone base, with too much light will kill the colours and blend into the body tone. With less lighting on them it will show the colours best. If you are looking to purchase an opal for a ring or pendant, and expect to usually wear this opal in lower lighting conditions (for example maybe for an evening dress ring), then a white opal is a good choice.

Boulder opals also do usually look very nice in lower lighting conditions. Not much will change in a boulder opal compared to high lighting exposure.

Most lightning ridge opals will lose some of their brightness / colour / pattern / body tone under lower lighting conditions. They look best when exposed to direct light.

A comparison of a boulder opal with direct artificial light vs no light

Ironstone and Sandstone Based Opals

Boulder Opals and Crystal Boulder Opals with Sandstone backing do not change too much in different lighting conditions. In general; they will look their best in natural sunlight. Lower lighting conditions may decrease the brightness of these opals, however they will not become dull or colourless in this exposure. We are often requested to make low light videos of boulder opals, and in our response we usually say that these opals will not change much in colour or brightness.

Potch and Crystal Based Opals

Lightning Ridge Black, Dark and Crystal Opals; as well as crystal boulder opal without sandstone backing all need direct light to look their best. Exposure to light is what sets these opals off. Sometimes, we receive an email from a customer who has purchased an opal from us and says their opal is not like the photos and videos on our website. Our photos and videos are made under direct LED Lightning to show the opal at their best colour. Our response is usually take the opal out of the box, from your low light room and look at it under different lighting – sunlight, desk light, well lit kitchen area. Your opal will look at its best in these lighting scenarios.

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