How to Care for Opal Jewelry
Opal Jewelry has been popular for centuries, but we still get asked what the proper way is to care for Opal Jewelry. Opal is a precious gemstone that when cared for correctly will last a lifetime and can be handed down throughout generations. Opals are more delicate then other gemstones, but they can still be worn daily as long as some simple rules are followed. Regardless of whether your piece of Opal Jewelry has a solid Opal or Doublet or Triplet inside, it can easily be cared for and look amazing for years to come.
Tips On Caring For your Opal Jewelry
- 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 to not wear Opal Doublet or Opal Triplet Jewelry while doing any water sports.
- Never wear Opal Jewelry 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 Jewelry 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 jewelers 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 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. 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 too energetic, 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 Opal 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 Jewelry, 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 Jewelry. Inspect your jewelry 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 jeweler.
- Cleaning gold jewelry. 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 jewelry.
Methods of Cleaning Opal Jewelry
Always avoid using any chemicals, toothpaste or abrasives when cleaning your Opal Jewelry. The best method for cleaning your Opal Jewelry is with the use of soapy, warm water solution.
Jewelry cloths are recommended to clean your Opal jewelry. Using a silver cloth for silver jewelry and a gold cloth for gold Opal jewelry 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 jewelry cleaning products do no harm the Opal. Commercial gold cleaning dips that make the gold shine brighter are ok but again try and not use it on Opal Doublets or Triplets.
Ultra Sonic Cleaners
When you take your Opal jewelry to a jeweler to clean, chances are they will use an ultra sonic cleaner. Please do not ever clean Opal Doublet or Opal Triplet Jewelry 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 jewelers to repolish. I have seen hundreds of Opal rings over 10 years old that just need a good polish and they come back as strong as new. Keep this in mind if you ever want to sell an old Opal ring, first thing is to take it to a jeweler to repolish and then get the Opal ring appraised.
Antique Opal Jewelry
Many people in Australia and Britain have inherited Opal jewelry. Most is made of 9kt gold as rings or pendants and made in a claw setting. Some expensive jewelry pieces were hand bezel set with diamonds. Do not clean antique Opal jewelry 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 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 jewelry in the freezer for 5 minutes and use a magnifying glass to see a thin line of ice that will appear join.
Please read our Opal Triplet information if you are not sure what a Triplet Opal is as so many people think their inherited Opal jewelry is solid when most is Triplet Opal which is worth considerable less than a solid Opal of the same fire colour.
Comparably only a few doublets were made at start of century. A doublet is a thin slice of Opal placed on top of ironstone or similar backing. If placed in a freezer the glue with freeze and be visible with magnifier lens. Read more about Doublets in our Opal Doublet information article.
Lot of collectors of antiques do not want the jewelry to be polished but rather the natural tarnished look. It is best to just clean the jewelry in soapy water with a toothbrush. Same applies to old collections like the John Benny Opal collection of custom made jewelry.