How to Care For Opals
Opal is approximately 5000 times rarer than Diamond! As it is so valuable gemstone consider the following measures to help take care of your opals, opal rings, opal pendants and opal necklaces.
Just like any other gemstone, opal should be stored separately to your other gems. The two most common causes of damage are: 1) Wearing your jewellery while sleeping, and 2) “Bundling” all of your jewellery together in a purse or carry-bag. Wearing jewellery while sleeping may cause the items to be crushed or damaged as body weight is pressed down upon them. Bunching jewellery together in a jewellery bag inevitably leads to the diamonds (the hardest stones) and the gold settings scratching against the Opal.
To adequately protect your precious opal jewellery make sure that you individually wrap your gems in soft cloth and store in a secure location. They can be stored in a safe but make sure that there is moisture in the air. Opals have a 6–10 % water content and (like many other gems) will “dry out” and form cracks if they are subjected to extended dry storage. If you need to store your opal away for a period of time, simply place it in a padded cloth bag for protection and store it away. For longer storage periods, place your opal in cotton wool with a few drops of water, then into a sealed plastic bag just to be safe. The water is not intended to soak into the stone (even though microscopic molecules may) but if it is exposed to very low humidity environments (for example, zero humidity storage safes) it will provide the much needed ambient moisture.
This is the reason why you will often see a small glass of water in the showcase at your jewellery store. This water compensates for the bright hot display-lights heating up the atmosphere and the gemstones, providing ambient moisture in the atmosphere. Placing your Opal in a glass of lukewarm water for 15 minutes every 12 months will prevent it from drying out especially if the opal has been exposed to very dry conditions.
Opals can be cleaned using professional jewellery cleaners such as an ‘ultrasonic’ however the machines that use caustic chemicals to clean the products must be avoided as these are great for cleaning Gold and Silver but not so good for Opals and other gemstones. Ultrasonic machines, however, can be just as effective using soft, soapy, warm water. The same goes for steam cleaning, these are great to clean Opals in very short 1-2 second bursts, but steam is at ‘boiling point’ temperature and will heat any item very quickly if not monitored closely.
The saying is “Opals love to be worn”. The moisture from the skin and atmosphere as well as natural cleaning from showers using warm water and a soft cloth to remove surface dirt and oil is a good monthly habit for Opal jewellery care. But what Opal jewellery loves the most is to be hand-polished with a soft cloth or chamois. Opals can be polished with a soft toothbrush or a cloth to maintain their finish and even a little toothpaste with water can restore the opal to its original brilliance (toothpaste contains talc which is a light abrasive). There are cleaning agents available to assist with this, however, the best item to use is a professional jewellery polishing cloth. These cloths are impregnated with appropriate cleaning solvents that will never harm, strip or otherwise damage the Opal.
All gemstones will chip, crack or shatter if hit hard enough or heated long enough, this goes for all gems (even Diamonds), so common sense care will lengthen the life of your gemstones. Don’t wear them if there is a chance they may get hit with hard objects like when gardening or playing sports. If you do damage your Opal, if you chip it or crack it, please contact us first. We have years of experience in repairing every sort of Opal and you would be amazed what can be saved.
We advise also you to insure your gems against damage or loss.
Doublets and triplets have multiple layers, and at Australian Opal Cutters our doublets and triplets have a lifetime guarantee against de-laminating. “Delamination” is when the layers of Opal separate due to water penetration dissolving the glues. Prior to 1970 this was a very real issue and Opals were known to “turn white” as the Opal layers separated and the crystal (now separated from the Black Opal “potch” base), revealed it’s true colour as a ‘white’ or ‘crystal’ colour or tone. Post 1970 silicon based glues became available. These are the same adhesives that have been used on space shuttle missions. These glues are silicon based so, when applied to the Opal, have the same “co-efficient of expansion”. This means that the Opal and the glue will expand and contract at the same rate in cold or heat. For this reason Australian Opals can guarantee that an Opal Doublet or Triplet will never delaminate! We have tested Doublets and Triplets by submerging them in water for up to 12 months with absolutely no delamination!
Opal, the Lucky Gem
By the way, if you have ever heard the myth that Opals are unlucky, we just thought you should know that it is alleged that this was invented by the Diamond industry, as Opals were once the engagement ring of choice. For more information see "The Diamond Invention".
Opal is the Lucky Gem from the Lucky Country!