So you have just spent a significant amount of money on your Opals and now you want to know how to care for opals. Here are some handy tips, broken down by specific Opal types, that will keep your Opal bright for a lifetime.
General Tips For All Opals
- Clean them using warm soapy water and a soft brush.
- Avoid ultrasonic cleaners and chemical cleaners
- Some rare types of opals, like Tintenbar Opals, should be kept in water to avoid cracking. More on this below.
- Avoid wearing Opal Jewelry in areas that have a harsh environment. This includes gardening or doing the dishes.
There is a common misconception that oil or household liquids can damage Australian opals. At present there are no known compounds that can penetrate a solid Australian opal. The only exception to this is Matrix Opal
which is porous. Another myth is that you should soak your opal in water. It doesn’t need this and it will not enhance it as a solid opal is impervious to this. It will not harm the stone so if you feel like doing it go ahead. Thin Opals should be set in a pendant and not a ring to improve the durability. I have had an opal bezel set in a ring for 20 years and wear it all the time. Every two or three years I have to re polish which I can do leaving it in the ring.
When set in jewellery the stone should be protected and not protrude out. Opals don’t like to be stored away for years in a safe or exposed to strong sunlight. To clean your opal just use a soft brush or cloth and mild detergent. Don’t clean it in a ultra sound as you can damage the stone.
To view your opal at its best indoors the natural light should come over your shoulder. Have your back to a window or door and view your opal.
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Opal Doublets And Triplets
Opal Doublets and Opal Triplets are not natural opals. They have been treated and glued together. It is not recommended to soak them in water. Triplets can lift after time. These days they use a UV light which glues them together creating a more stable Opal. Clean with a soft cloth with mild detergent.
This is what the GIA in American said about Ethiopian Opal“This is opal from the Welo region of Ethiopia. It is mainly Hydrophane in that it absorbs water and can change colour. To determine if the opal is hydrophane wet your hand and place it on the top of the Opal. If it sticks to your hand it is hydrophane. Stones will change colour when wet but will return back later. Don’t dry them out under strong lights.
Also called brown opal. This material is more prone to crazing but they make stunning specimens with electric neon colours. This material can be stabilized and should be cleaned using warm soapy water only.
Virgin Valley Opal - USA
American Opal is a type of crystal opal that has a high water content. It is prone to crazing. Some wood replacement opal make great specimens and appear stable. Many of the miners do treat these crystal stones. For long life of these Opals it is recommend to keep these Opals in water.
Mexican Opal needs the same care as Australian opal. Some natural stones have matrix around them which can absorb fluids and discolour the matrix. Clean the stone with a mild detergent.
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How To Care For Opal Jewelry
There seems to be much confusion about the proper way to care for and clean opals and opal jewellery. Here is a simple guide that will let you preserve your beautiful opals and keep them looking their best.
- Buy quality stones from a knowledgeable dealer or Jeweller. Preferably someone who is a Opal cutter.
Now this may sound like strange “care” advice, but the stone you purchase is as important as the care you give it. Here’s why.
Many jewellers don’t know one opal from another, and cannot offer you the right opal care advice. If you know what you’ve got…you can know how to look after it.
- Can I put my opals in water?
Yes, there is no problem in doing this. But if the stone were an opal doublet or opal tripletit would be unwise to leave it in water. Particularly hot water with detergent as in washing up water. The opal triplet I gave my sister-in-law was used in all sorts of situations and was still going strong after 2 years of constant use…but this is not recommended for triplets and doublets as it may effect the cement that holds the protective
crystal cap on the stone. Of course in the case of solid opals, hot water or detergent or oils will not effect them.
- How do oily substances affect an opal?
If you mean wearing it under the car when you change the oil or pack the wheel bearings, ...the oil won’t soak into the stone or hurt it in any way, but the grime and the possibility of scratching it would be the biggest problem.
However, oily hand and face creams will not hurt the stone, except that it may build up around a ring and make it look unsightly.
- What should I do to avoid damaging an opal?
Don’t wear it doing the gardening, because the sand or soil may take the polish off the stone, or, if you get tooenergetic, you could smash the stone against a rock, and opals don’t like being treated that way. (Neither would you or I). And of course, there is the chance that the gold or silver claws will be damaged, and you could loose the stone altogether. Take it off if you are doing any sort of work that could bring the stone in contact with hard surfaces. A flick of the wrist in the wrong direction could chip it.
- What do I do if my stone loses its polish or becomes scratched?
Now, this is why we suggest that you buy from people who cut the stone. For example if you get a stone from Opal Auctions and you damage your stone, in most cases it can be re-polished. If opal is scratched after a few years it can be polished by most jewelers or a polisher at a lapidary club
- How do I store my opals for long periods of time?
Generally it’s safe to store them away, as long as the area is not overheated. It’s not a bad idea to put them in a sealed plastic bag with a damp cloth in case of drying out. Don’t store them for long periods of time under hot lights, as this could crack the stones if the heat builds up and is magnified in a showcase.
- Caring for opals with diamond accents.
If you have accompanying diamonds with your opal jewellery, in the case of rings particularly, the diamonds become very dull after a while, even if you’ve given the ring a clean. The main reason for this is that many people only clean the front of the ring and not the back. So…just pour some pure washing detergent into the back of your ring, and scrub it from the inside with a soft toothbrush in hot water. The diamonds will sparkle again, and it will not hurt the opal as long as you don’t do it all the time.
- Check your jewellery.
Inspect your jewellery regularly for claw damage. You can do this yourself if you have a magnifying glass. There’s no mystery to it. If you can see that the claw is loose and the stone moves a little, it’s good to get something done about it. If you hold the item up close to your ear and rattle it if the stone is very loose you can hear it. If you want to be sure about it, talk to your jeweller.
- Cleaning gold jewellery.
Any paste or fluid designed to polish brass will also polish gold or silver. Just use a soft rag, apply the paste, and polish it off. After that, pour on a few drops of household detergent, give it a scrub with a fine toothbrush and wash it off under hot water. This will bring the gold back to what it was like when you purchased the jewellery.
Toothpaste and a soft toothbrush do an excellent job on both stones and metal.
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