Caring for Opals
Opal is a unique and beautiful gemstone that will last indefinitely if properly cared for. You should treat your precious opal with the same care and respect as you would with any fine jewellery.
While there are some special requirements, caring for opal is really very simple providing that you keep in mind two basic facts:
- Most precious opal contains about 6 - 10% water so opal may craze or crack when subjected to harsh, dry conditions and/or rapid changes of temperature, and;
- With a hardness of about 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs' scale of hardness, where as diamonds rate a 10, opal like any other gemstone can be broken, chipped, scratched, or lose its shine with heavy wear and tear.
How do I clean opal?
Solid opal can be cleaned with a soft detergent in warm water using a soft cloth or brush, once cleaned rinse in clean water to remove any residue. Never use an ultrasonic cleaner as this may cause them to craze, crack or break.
What about doublets and triplets?
Both are layered opals that need more care than a solid stone. Doublets consist of a slice of precious opal that is cemented to base of common opal potch or ironstone. Triplets are similar except that they also have a clear crystal cap cemented to the top of the precious opal slice in order to protect and enhance it. Both can be cleaned with lukewarm water and mild detergent but never immerse them in water as this may affect the bonding materials them together. The same reaction can occur if an ultrasonic cleaner is used.
How do I store my opals?
Store opals wrapped in a soft cloth is all that you will ever need to do.
Note: If you keep you opals in a de-humidified atmosphere, a safety deposit box, bank vault or safe for long periods it is advised to keep them in a sealed plastic bag with a little water or damp sponge to protect them from sudden temperature drops or spikes.
a) Solid opal can be wet or soaked in water without any problem. This is not the case for a doublet or triplet.
b) Never store opal in oil or glycerine (as some will advise) - though oil will generally not soak into the stone. Oily face and hand creams should not cause a problem except like with other stones build up in or on the jewellery makes it look unsightly. Clean as directed above
c) Prolonged exposure to harsh detergents and other chemicals can damage or "dry out" the stone. Be particularly careful about exposing opals and sterling silver to chlorine or chlorine bleach that will cause grave effects.
d) Sand and soil are abrasive, ultimately causing scratching and damage to the surface of the finely polished stone.
e) An accidental hit or knock could crack the stone or damage the setting. Note: Treat all jewellery with respect and take it off before engaging in any of these activities.
f) If the opal loses its shine or becomes scratched, take it to a reputable jeweller who knows about opal, re-polishing can generally be done for a very reasonable price.