Not All Opals Are Created Equal
As with all things old and precious, opals require attention and care so their beauty continues to shine for years to come. The care your stones will require, be it lose or set stones, depends on their type and properties.
When it comes to caring for opals, two rules apply to them all:
- Opals should be kept away from very high-temperature extremes and very low humidity
- Opals must not be cleaned using chemicals, bleach, or ultrasonic technology. Although some types of opals are known to withstand ultrasonic cleaning, please consider the risks carefully. Due to the vibrations transmitted during the procedure, your stone could potentially crack
Natural Australian Opal
It is important to note that solid, natural Australian opals are of similar hardness and consistency as glass or crystal and can break. Dropping your Opal on concrete or tiles could result in a chip or crack, so care must be taken when handling.
Other than a pinch of mindfulness, natural opals do not require special care and contrary to popular belief, they DO NOT have to be stored in water once cut. Water does not affect your natural Australian Opal. We recommend you gently clean your opal with a bit of mild detergent, water, and a soft cloth.
Hydrophane opal is a type of a porous opal which has the ability to absorb water when exposed to it, which in turn, changes the clarity and colour of the stone – this may last for several days. Even in their natural dry state, hydrophane opals have a higher content of water which makes them more sensitive to temperature and pressure changes, thus more prone to cracking.
Hydrophane opal is most commonly from Ethiopia often known as “Welo”
We recommend you gently clean your Welo Opal with a damp, soft cloth and let your hydrophane opal sit to dry thoroughly before wearing it. Soaking your Welo Opal will most likely cause it to crack.
Matrix opal is a porous rock impregnated with microscopic opal pieces. Matrix opal is commonly treated by carbon impregnation in order to achieve colour enhancement; natural matrix opal tends to be of creamy base colour with little colour play. Treating the stone turns the base dark or even black, making the colour play more prominent. Due to its porousness, be mindful of exposing the stone to water for extended periods of time.
Similarly to the hydrophane opal, we recommend you gently clean your opal with a damp, soft cloth.
Doublets and Triplets
Doublets are composite opals consisting of two layers – a thin veneer of opal and a layer of dark backing, which may show enhanced colour of the opal. This can be achieved by gluing either black or grey silica material or a thin slice of common opal to the back of the opal with epoxy resin.
Triplets are composite opals consisting of three layers – the opal layer, a protective transparent top layer, and backing. A slice of quartz may be used to cap the thin opal veneer to protect it from abrasion. This produces a three-tiered gemstone known as a triplet, which can often display brilliant colours. It is a cheaper method of presentation and can enhance the appearance of the opal.
We recommend doublets and triplets be wiped with a soft, damp cloth and mild detergent. Doublets and triplets should never be soaked or immersed in liquid – prolonged exposure to water will cause their layers to lift, making the stone look dimmed or foggy in appearance or fall apart.
Storing & Maintaining the Beauty of Your Australian Opals
Australian Opals are best stored separately in soft materials such as silk or velvet. Other than that, opals do not require any special storage conditions unless they are being exposed to very dry, hot conditions for an extended period of time.
If your stone has developed any scratches or crazing (micro-fractures or cracks) over time, you might want to consider having it professionally polished by your trusted opal cutter. Professional polishing will bring the colours out and make your stone look breathtaking again.