Caring for your opal stone jewelry

 These somewhat fragile but oh so beautiful gems are unique among gems. I took the rough material, cut and polished many opals. I can't count the number of opal stones I've set in jewelry. I love opals.


Opal ring advice. Opal is quite safe when properly cleaned and will not chip or break unless badly knocked. You have to be careful not to hit or bump the stone against hard objects. Then again, who wants to knock on some jewelry!


Opal is a "glass-like" material, very similar to glass with a few specific exceptions: The glassy structure explains opal's ability to chip or scratch. But even though opal is made of the same siliceous material as glass, it is slightly different, and it is this difference that makes this gemstone so amazing. Fill the bowl with just enough water to cover the balls.


This is a simple visual example of how an opal is made inside a gemstone. Over time, the small beads (spheres) of silica join and layer together until a complete stone is formed. There is some water between the microscopic silica beads. Of course, the silica beads or spheres in the opal are much closer together than in the "beads in a bowl" example, and there is much less water. Opal pendant necklace can contain up to about 10% water.


The color and fire of the opal comes from groups of quartz balls. The size of the spheres alone determines what light is reflected back into the eye. Some groups are close enough to reflect red light, while others spaced slightly differently reflect blue or green light. The beads scatter light and reflect a certain color depending on the size of the silica beads and the spacing of the beads in the gem. That's where the color comes from.


Water in opal is stable, in stable opal! Gem quality opals do not do this. Opal selected for stone cutting has the water content contained in the stone and is proven to be stable and safe. 


General care. Here is the rest of the care information. First, think of opal as glass, even if you think it's not glass, it's similar. Keeping this in mind will prevent damage. Cleaning is easy with a mild dishwashing detergent at room temperature. Rinse and dry. This is an excellent time to check and make sure the stone is securely and firmly seated in the setting. Click on the ring next to the ear to hear a slight "rattle" indicating a loose stone.


Heat and cold can damage the opal. In general, very sudden and extreme changes in temperature can damage the opal. Daily temperature changes will be safe. Be careful in extreme cases, such as going from a sauna to a frozen pond! Such a temperature change could damage the stone. Everyday wear is safe.


I wouldn't jump into a hot shower after coming in from the cold with opals on. Simply remove the ring and keep it out of the bath. This keeps the stone cleaner by avoiding very difficult to clean "soap scum" and potentially dangerous sudden changes in heat.


Avoid abrasive products. Abrasives are like sandpaper. Things that scratch glass will scratch opal. Take the ring off if you do a lot of washing, do yard work, fill the sandbox or apply makeup. Yes, makeup is abrasive. Most of the dark streaks people wear from necklaces are from makeup. The very fine particles in make-up are like microscopic sandpaper, abrading the gold so finely that the gold appears black. This is the cause of most of the smudges on the jewelry, the gold rubbed off by the subtle "emery" effect of the make-up.


Opal can be scratched by makeup. The scratches will be so subtle that you won't notice them, but they will eventually remove the luster of the stone. Please put on your opals and all jewelry after you finish your makeup, hairspray, or other things that the ladies use. Store jewelry where it will not reflect or rub against other jewelry.

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