Care And Attention
Australian Opal gems are perfect for all types of jewelry, but alike all gemstones require care and attention to ensure they stay beautiful in 100 years, just like the day you purchased them!
Opals are valuable gemstone – approximately 5000 times rarer than Diamond – so you may want to consider the following care and storage measures to properly care for your Australian Opals, opal rings, opal earrings, opal pendants, opal necklaces and every piece of opal jewelry in between.
Common Causes Of Damage
Just like any other gemstone, Opals should be stored separately from your other gems. You may be surprised to learn that the two most common causes of jewelry damage are actually:
1. Wearing your jewelry while sleeping:
You may be surprised by this, but you would be amazed at how much you move around while sleeping—wearing jewelry while sleeping is risky as it can cause the items to be crushed or damaged as body weight is pressed down upon them. Or you can unconsciously knock your ring against hard surfaces (walls, bed edges) while completely unaware and perhaps dreaming.
2. Bundling all of your jewelry together in a purse or carry bag:
The other area that is surprising is bunching jewelry together in a jewelry bag. This inevitably leads to the diamonds (the hardest stones) and the gold settings scratching against the Opals, or sapphires scratching pearls, or simply the chains, clasps and findings all scratching against each other. Every time the jewelry bag moves around, all of these jumbled items wear and scratch each other, and, over time, the damage can be substantial.
So, keep your jewelry items individually wrapped and then you can place them all together in your jewelry bag without risk of damage.
To adequately protect your valuable Opal jewelry, make sure you individually wrap your gems in a soft protective cloth and moisten the cloth before long-term storage. Opals can be stored safely but make sure there is moisture in the air when being stored.
While safes and lockboxes are secure, they are usually airless and have very little humidity. 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 for an extended length of time, just place it in a padded cloth bag and dampen the cloth before storing it for protection. To keep your Opal safe for extended periods, wrap it in cotton wool with a few drops of water, then put it in a plastic bag. Even while microscopic molecules may soak into the stone, if exposed to extremely low humidity settings (for example, zero humidity storage safes), it will offer much-needed ambient moisture.
This is the reason why you will often see a small glass of water in the showcase at your jewelry store. This water compensates for the bright hot display lights heating the atmosphere and the gemstones, providing ambient moisture in the atmosphere. Without this added moisture most, gems will develop inclusions when left to ‘bake’ under a hot display light.
Opals “love to be worn”, and the ambient moisture found in everyday wear, with skin and contact with water, is all your Opal needs to keep them “healthy”. Placing your Opal in a glass of lukewarm water for 15 minutes every 12 months is another way to prevent it from drying out, especially if the Opal has been exposed to very dry conditions.
Opals can be cleaned using professional jewelry cleaners such as an ultrasonic machine; however this is 'with conditions', 1) the machines often use caustic chemicals as the agent to clean the products. These caustic chemicals must be avoided, as these are great for cleaning Gold and Silver but not so good for Opals, Pearls, Coral and some other gemstones. So please only use mildly warm water and a soft non-abrasive soap. 2) the vibration at an ultrasonic level against the metal in the ultrasonic cleaner can be very damaging and can actually cause cracks or chips (as is also potentially a problem with any other gemstone in an ultrasonic cleaner) for this reason we always suggest suspending the opal in a basket or a wire across the top of the ultrasonic. This means placing the Opal or jewellery in a plastic mesh 'tea-strainer' (or any other similar plastic hanging system) that suspends the opal allowing it to be cleaner but keeping it from direct contact with the metal base dish. This is a great way to allow the ultrasonic vibration and oscillation to remove dirt particles without the 'hammering' of the metal against the opal!
Any gem, even a diamond, will develop cracks and inclusions if it is heated too much too quickly. Unfortunately, “too much” is not an exact science as every Gem is different.
The saying is “Opals love to be worn”, but what Opal jewelry loves the most is to be hand-polished with a soft cloth or chamois. You should use warm water and a soft cloth to remove surface dirt and oil, an excellent monthly habit for Opal jewelry care.
Opals should be polished with a soft toothbrush or a cloth to maintain their finish. Even a little toothpaste with water can restore the Opal to its original brilliance; toothpaste contains talc, which is a very light abrasive. Another trick is to use dental floss to get into the difficult areas in a ring or pendant to give them a clean.
There are cleaning agents available online to assist with this; however, the best item to use is a professional jewelry 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, and this goes for all gems – even Diamonds will crack or chip if you hit it with a hammer! – 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 damage your Opal, please contact us first if you chip it or crack it. We have years of experience repairing every sort of Opal, and you would be amazed what can be saved.
We also advise 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 our warranty and service guarantee against delamination. “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 its 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, they have the same “coefficient 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!
So, if your Opal has been chipped, cracked or damaged, we offer an amazing service and will save and/or repair most damaged items under warranty or ’at cost’. Just ship everything back to us, and we will work out the best way to re-cut damaged Opals, or we can email your similar Opals to re-set into your precious jewelry.