Tips on Caring for your Opals
- Opal Doublets and Triplets are not recommended to get wet. The process of creating these Opals means that glue is used between the thin opal and the backing. Today modern methods are used to bond the Opal, so water is not an issue as it was in the past. We still recommend however not wearing Opal Doublet or Opal Triplet Jewellery while doing any water sports.
- Never wear Opal Jewellery while you play sports or work in the garden. Opal can be scratched by dirt particles and any hard knocks can cause the Opal to crack.
- Consider the type of Jewellery and the type of setting that the Opal is in. Bezel settings help protect the edges of Opal more, while claw settings provide less protection. Opals worn in areas of less abuse (such as pendants and earrings) can have any type of setting since they will not be exposed to harsh conditions.
- Opal rings that are claw set should be treated with extra care. These types of rings are mainly used for cocktail rings that are worn on occasion. If you plan to wear a claw set Opal ring daily, just be aware that there is a chance the Opal may get caught on something.
- Buy quality Opal stones from a knowledgeable dealer or Jeweller. Preferably someone who is an 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 with doing this. But if the stone is an Opal Doublet or Opal Triplet it would be unwise to leave it in water. Particularly hot water with detergent as in washing up water. In the case of solid Opals, hot water or detergent or oils will not affect 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 too energetic, you could smash the stone against a rock, and Opals don’t like being treated that way. And of course, there is the chance that the gold or silver claws will be damaged, and you could lose 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 Opal stone loses its polish or becomes scratched? 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 jewellers 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.
Methods of Cleaning Opal Jewellery
Always avoid using any chemicals, toothpaste, or abrasives when cleaning your Opal Jewellery. The best method for cleaning your Opal Jewellery is with the use of a soapy, warm water solution.
Jewellery cloths are recommended to clean your Opal jewellery. Using a silver cloth for silver jewellery and a gold cloth for gold Opal jewellery will help to maintain the brightness of your Opal. If the cloth becomes dirty with black residue try to avoid using that side. Store your cloth in a zip lock bag so no dust particles can contaminate the cloth.
Most commercial silver jewellery cleaning products do no harm the Opal. Commercial gold cleaning dips that make the gold shine brighter are ok but again try not to use it on Opal Doublets or Triplets.
When you take your Opal jewellery to a jeweller to clean, chances are they will use an ultra-sonic cleaner. Please do not ever clean Opal Doublet or Opal Triplet Jewellery in an ultra-sonic cleaner. These machines can weaken the glue bond and cause your Opal to fall apart. For solid Opal we have never had a problem with ultra-sonic cleaners.
Having Your Opal Polished
Many Opals set in rings are taken to jewellers to repolish. Keep this in mind if you ever want to sell an old Opal ring, the first thing is to take it to a jeweller to repolish and then get the Opal ring appraised.
Antique Opal Jewellery
Many people in Australia and Britain have inherited Opal jewellery. Most are made of 9kt gold as rings or pendants and made in a claw setting. Some expensive jewellery pieces were hand bezel set with diamonds. Do not clean antique Opal jewellery in the ultra-sonic cleaner till you determine if the Opal is a natural solid Opal, Opal Doublet, or Opal Triplet.
Britain was the main buyer of Opal at the start of the century and a lot of Opal is now in the UK. It is important to check if the Opal is solid or triplet because the invention of doublets and triplets happened around the start of the century.
An Opal Triplet is a thin slice of Opal set between a glass top and a black base. Originally glass tops were used but later plastic tops and bottoms were used. You can place jewellery in the freezer for 5 minutes and use a magnifying glass to see a thin line of ice that will appear at the join.
So many people think their inherited Opal jewellery is solid when most is Triplet Opal which is worth considerably less than a solid Opal of the same fire colour.
Comparably only a few doublets were made at the start of the century. A doublet is a thin slice of Opal placed on top of ironstone or similar backing. If placed in a freezer the glue will freeze and be visible with a magnifier lens.
A lot of collectors of antiques do not want the jewellery to be polished but rather the naturally tarnished look. It is best to just clean the jewellery in soapy water with a toothbrush.