How do you cut and polish an opal without special machines- in ten steps

If you don’t have any machinery, you can do it by hand this way:How do you cut and polish an opal without special machines- in ten steps

  1. You have to find a piece of opal that is not too large so that it can be handled easily and has a fairly flat or domed surface.
  2. Buy yourself some wet and dry sandpaper from the hardware store. If you need to take a lot of material off to get to the color or to shape it a bit, you will need to get some 220 grit sandpaper. You can attach the sandpaper to a small block of wood by wrapping it around the block and stapling it or nailing it to the back
  3. You can make another block of wood using 320 grit sandpaper, then 600 grit, and finally 1200 grit.
  4. You can then stick some split chrome leather ( to another block of wood. You might have to ask someone in a shop that repairs leather goods to find out what this is. It’s usually green tough leather, rough on one side.
  5. You have to get some cerium or tin oxide for the final polish. You can get it from a lapidary (stone cutting) supplier, or someone who has to polish scratches out of glass. People who make headstones for graves also use it and maybe people who do terrazzo polishing of tiles.
  6. If you want to get a bit more sophisticated you can buy one of those dremmel machines from the hardware store which gives you a whole bunch of little wheels. In this way you can cut the sandpaper and the leather into little discs, and stick them on to rubberised mini discs that come with the machine. You can use the rubber from old bike or tyre tubes for this.
  7. Get some contact cement from the hardware store for all your sticking needs but if you are using a mini disc, first you cement the rubber on to the disc with contact cement, then stick the sandpaper onto the rubber using disc cement which is like contact cement but remains sticky.  Remember to allow the contact cement to dry overnight before putting the sandpaper on or it will be too tacky.
  8. When sticking with contact cement, you put the cement on both sides of whatever you are sticking together and let it dry for about fifteen minutes before pressing the two surfaces together.
  9. You will have to do it this way when you cement the leather on to the rubber. Then you make slurry with water and cerium oxide and put some on the leather. You can also put some on the opal you are polishing.
  10. Just experiment until you get the hang of it. Just make sure all fine scratches are out of the opal before you attempt to polish it with cerium. So this is a method you can use to polish an opal with little or no equipment. Of course, if you want to learn how to do it properly, using opal cutting machinery that you can either make yourself, or purchase, please go to for some advice and a short video. You can also get a cd called ‘Opals for the Ordinary Bloke’ for $35 or free with a parcel of rough opal. This gives you over 30 years of experience in mining, cutting, setting, and marketing opal.  If you don’t understand some of the comments made here, just leave a message on the blog at opalmine.

13 Responses to “How do you cut and polish an opal without special machines- in ten steps”

  1. Big Ted

    Where would be a good place to go fossick for opals. I live in mildura victoria, and would love to go for a bit of a fossick.

    • admin

      Ted regarding fossicking for opal. The best place you can go is to the opal dumps at Grawin west of Lightning Ridge. Make your way to the Ridge first and ask around.Grawin is a good hours drive away but the roads are mostly sealed and there is a chance you will find something there because the miners dont wash the mullock like they do at the Ridge. you will need some buckets, rakes, small pics and make sure you have hats. it gets pretty hot on top of those huge white piles of opal dirt. Hope you do well. Let me know if i can help further. Peter

  2. Catherine Costello

    i have a opal ring which got wet inside, i want to know how to remove water.

    • Peter

      Catherine, regarding the problems with your opal. i will contact you by email to help you with this. peter

  3. Idris Ibrahim

    I do want more and detailed information about opal , cutting, polishing,raparing cruks etc

  4. Lawrence

    good advice on the opal polishing. I myself have found a way with just 3 steps just last night. if anyone is interested let me know and I’ll give pictures as I do them, it worked amazingly well and it’s very simple with only spending 20 dollars.

    • Peter

      Sure Lawrence, make some comments here. Always interested in progressive learning and thanks for your contribution. Peter

    • Emma

      Hello Lawrence. I’d love to know your 3 easy steps. If you would share them, it would be much appreciated.

      • Peter

        Hi opal cutting video and eBook is available online from opalmine site. just email me from front page, top right hand side and i will send you details. best wishes Lawrence, Peter


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