We love opal! With its vast variety of colors, types, shapes, localities, and forms. Although, learning about how quickly a perfectly good opal can become ruined may make some a bit weary of purchasing opals or opal jewelry.
Do not fear though, taking care of opal can be easy! All it takes is a bit of common sense and knowledge about opal to keep them whole and shinning bright.
Before we jump into the care of your opals, lets first decide which kind of opal you may have, as the care can vary slightly from type to type.
Doublets – Doublet opals consist of two layers, a thin slice of opal and a black backing. The slice of opal is cemented to the backing in order to enhance the color.
Triplets – Similar to doublets, triplets also include a third transparent layer on the top (quartz or glass) to protect the opal and give it a rounder shape.
Solid Opal – Natural solid opal which has only been cut and polished.
Doublets & Triplets – Caring for doublets or triplets is a little different to caring for solid opals. Because doublets and triplets consist of multiple layers glued together, prolonged exposure to water will eventually cause lifting between the layers and the infiltration of water. A doublet or triplet will take on a ‘foggy’ or grey appearance if this happens. This does not mean your opal will be ruined if you wear it in the shower once, or are caught in the rain. It takes prolonged exposure to cause water damage to a doublet or triplet.
Solid Opals – Opal is a soft stone, approximately the same hardness as glass (around 6.5 on Moh’s hardness scale), so it is important to treat your opal carefully in order to avoid damaging it. Remove your opal jewelry if there is a chance it will be scratched or broken (i.e. working in the garden, moving furniture, etc.)
It is also best advised to avoid prolonged water exposure on your opals. Most opals will be fine with an accidental rinse, dip or spray with water. Prolonged wetness, however, may effect how the opal dries afterwards and cause crazing, cracking and fracturing. In fact, most precious opals contain about 5-6% water. As a result, opal may crack if subjected to very dry conditions or rapid changes in temperature. Try to avoid very high temperatures or low humidity extremes, such as boiling water or zero humidity bank vaults.
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, but will prevent water coming out of the stone if it is exposed to very low humidity environments (for example, zero humidity storage safes).
We hope this little guide helps you to maintain your opals. Feel free to reach out if you have any further questions!