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Opal Care

There seems to be much confusion about the proper way to care for and clean opals and opal jewelry.

To read about opal care please scroll past our product selection to the bottom of this page. If you have any questions on caring for your opal jewelry I would be happy to assist you anytime. You can contact me via the live chat or by email at peter@opalmine.com

Opal Care
Crystal opal from Coober Pedy

Here’s a simple guide that will let you preserve your beautiful opals and keep them looking their best. Opal jewelry like this needs to be cared for.

Buy quality stones from a knowledgeable dealer or jeweler, preferably someone who is a 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? If its Australian opal, yes, there is no problem in doing this, but if the stone is from Africa or from areas that are damp, the opal will soak up the water and lose color as stated above.

It is possible to restore the color by drying out the stone but it’s not worth the risk. If you take a look at the blog below you will see that many people have bought hydrophane opals that are not from the desert areas of Australia and these opals have lost their color. (See comments at the bottom of this page in answer to a customer who had this problem)

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 nor I)..

And of course, there is the chance that the gold or silver claws will be damaged, and you could lose 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 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 the opalmine.com site, and you damage your stone, in most cases, it can be re-polished very cheaply. If you have stones already that need re-polishing, contact us for instructions.

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 little water 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.

Some common sense opal care advice.

Opal Care
Boulder opal pendant

This advice comes from my wife Renate’s personal experience. She was sporting a beautiful blue boulder opal ring, about 4 carats in size, mounted in nice 18k gold, surrounded with diamonds. Worth around $2000.

On the way back from the snowfields one year, she went into the ladies room at a fuel station, and after washing her hands with soap and water, she wiped them on a paper towel, and at the same time, pulled off her ring and threw it into the wastepaper basket…and didn’t even notice it till we got home, about 1000 km’s up the track.

This problem is more pronounced for people who have rather straight fingers with little or no enlarged knuckle. You just have to have a little extra hand cream on, and it will slip right off. ..so just be conscious of it.
Caring for Jewelry 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 poor some pure wash-up 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.

Opal Care
Opal pendant/earrings set

Check your jewelry. Inspect your jewelry regularly for claw damage. You can do this yourself if you have a magnifying glass. There’s not a 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. 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.

Also, on the subject of opal insurance…If you think your opals are insured under your household policy, make sure you have a good talk with your broker or agent. Ask the following questions.

Securing and Insuring your Opals.

Opal Care
Matching opal gents cufflinks

House security: A good addition to every home is a deadlock. Usually, they cost around $50 per door, but the money is well spent if you install them on all external entries. An experienced thief can pick these locks too, but it is not likely as there are too many other locks that are a snack to open.

If you have a room in the house where you put your valuables, put a deadlock on the internal door as well. Your insurance company will give you a smile of approval for this initiative, and probably a healthy discount too, that can go toward the cost of the locks….See your broker for negotiations along this line.

  • How much coverage do I have for any one item?
  • Do I need to give you a list of all my jewelry items?
  • Do you require extra money to make sure expensive items are covered?
  • Is my jewelry covered outside my home?
  • Am I covered if I lose something?
  • What documentation do you require if I file a claim?
  • Will you accept my purchase invoice or receipt as proof of value or do I need to get an official appraisal?
  • How much do you suggest I ensure an item for in case the replacement costs more than I paid for the original?

Giving a little forethought to your purchase and by applying the suggestions in this opal care section we are confident that you will get many years of service from your jewelry. If you need any advice in this regard, please don’t hesitate to leave a message on this blog.

Example of assistance given to a customer who bought an African opal which turned brown:

Susan:

The opal is probably from Ethiopia and many of them lose color when immersed in water because of their porosity. The first thing I would do is go back to the jeweler you purchased it from and complain and either ask for your money back or at least half so that you can buy an opal from Australia that you won’t have problems with. The jeweler should have disclosed this to you at the point of sale.

If you want to try to stay with your opal because of sentimental reasons or if you cannot get a refund, I can offer you some suggestions. I am happy to give you this free service.

Try putting your ring on the mantlepiece in full sunlight or under a warm desk light for a few hours and allow the stone to completely dry out. This could take a longer period of time but when the water has evaporated the color should come back. Just remember not to put it in water in future.

If you like, take a look at this comprehensive article we have written about opal rings

I hope this explanation has helped. If you like let me know how you go. Pleased to help further if possible.

Peter

246 Responses

  1. Hi Peter and team,

    I have heard mixed stories about people pouring resin over opals, particularly Ethiopian opals, to seal them and stop them from cracking/hazing. I wondered if its true that this actually works? Also, could you do it with resin over boulder opal to protect the face of it? I heard resin would make stop the shine of the opal? Any expert advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Phil, there are a few suggestions online about using epoxy to stabilize African opal but I don’t deal in it because of its reputation to crack and lose color. some boulder opals from Australia have really nice colors that cant be polished because of the porous quality of the associated ironstone. you can make these look really nice with clear epoxy but if you are selling them you would need to state that they are epoxy treated rather than polished. Peter

  2. English translation: I
    have a fire opal and Ethiopians the fire opal shone very nice but its colors disappeared and it already has few and then I put it in water and nothing happened. What can I do?
    answer:
    Carlos this type of opal is called ‘hydrophane’ it’s very beautiful but also is very porous which means that water can soak into it and take away its color. This is why it’s best to buy Australian opal because it comes from very dry areas, is not porous, and is guaranteed to keep color. However, if yours has lost its color try leaving it in the sun for a few hours but not too long because it can also crack. I hope this will help. Let me know the results. Peter
    Spanish: Carlos, este tipo de ópalo se llama ‘hidrofano’, es muy hermoso pero también es muy poroso, lo que significa que el agua puede penetrarlo y quitarle el color. Es por eso que es mejor comprar ópalo australiano porque proviene de áreas muy secas y no es poroso y garantiza que mantenga el color. Eso sí, si el tuyo ha perdido el color prueba a dejarlo al sol unas horas pero no demasiado porque también se puede agrietar. Espero que esto sea de ayuda. Déjame saber los resultados. Pedro
    PS. apologies for late reply disculpas por la respuesta tardia

    1. Staudre, not sure what is meant here but thanks so much for your reply anyway. peter
      french: Staudre, je ne sais pas ce que l’on entend ici, mais merci beaucoup pour votre réponse quand même. Pierre

    2. english from french: I have a paste with a white opal and this opal has yellowed what to do to make it white again thank you

      Please read the post from Carlos above. you probably have an ethiopean opal. Try what i suggested to Carlos and let me know how you go. peter
      Veuillez lire le message de Carlos ci-dessus. vous avez probablement une opale éthiopienne. Essayez ce que j’ai suggéré à Carlos et faites-moi savoir comment vous allez. Pierre

  3. Hello, I have a question, I got a couple of little opals and we put them on some gold earrings, but with the passing of the days they lost their color and became opaque and yellow. I was recommended to put them in the water, but now they are transparent. Is there anything I can do to bring their color back?

    1. Ángela, probablemente hayas comprado ópalos africanos que pierden color cuando se ponen en agua porque son muy porosos. intente ponerlos a la luz solar directa en el alféizar de la ventana y séquelos. el color debería volver. Déjame saber si funciona. pedro
      english:
      Angela, you have probably bought African opals which lose color when put into water because they are very porous. try putting them in direct sunlight on the windowsill and dry them out. the color should return. let me know if it works. peter

  4. Hola tengo un opalo de fuego y su color se ha ido, se concentro en medio, lo llevaba Todos los dias conmigo, me puedon decir como recobrar su color, como adjunto imagenes del antes y del despues ?

    1. Envíe dos imágenes claras de su piedra a través del formulario de contacto en este sitio y trataré de ayudarlo con el problema. Peter

    2. Raquel Es probablemente un ópalo africano no australiano. Estos ópalos pierden color si están en contacto con la humedad. intenta dejarlo al sol por un tiempo. Peter

  5. Hi! I have had a similar experience to many who have written on your page, except for one exception, about which I can find no information. So, my husband got me a ring with an Ethiopian fire opal. After a trip to Shanghai, where it was very humid and with strong air pollution, it lost its greens and blues. When I got home, I decided to clean it using a cotton pad and I used a toothpick to push the cotton into some of the hard to reach areas. As I was doing this, some sort of a coating came off on the cotton – it was greyish brown – and the stone then became totally translucent. I have contacted the seller and she was shocked and confused by this, as she says opals are never coated. Some of the color is now coming back, but the stone remains totally translucent. Any ideas about what this coating could have been and if it can be restored?

    1. Thanks for your response. The opal was advertised as an Ethiopian Fire Opal and it wasn’t dark. It was milky white/green with orange, red, and violet fire. It Sounds as though you think that having it recoated is probably not worth it, is that right?

  6. hola,me pudiera ayudar que clase de ópalo es y sus cuidados por favor…lo compré en un pawn shop y me llamó la atención este anillo algo viejo de oro 18 kilates…gracias!

  7. Hi,

    Thanks for the wonderful article.. I purchased opal stone in India and made it into a ring 5 months back from a very reputed jewelry shop. Initially, the opal stone was semi-transparent and the fire was clearly visible from all angles.. However, after 5 months, the stone became fully transparent (almost like a glass) and the fire is only slightly visibly that too only when it is very bright and in an angle only.. Can you please tell me why this happened.. The shop is very famous and hence I don’t think they would have cheated with fake stone.. But I’m not sure though..

    1. The same thing happened to me. I bought an opal from a very well known jewelry factory, with a considerable amount of money, some thousands USD. In the begining it had fire in it and it was white milky, but now is transparent and browny.
      Can you help me and tell what to do?

    2. I have the same problem. Not knowing about caring for Ethiopian opals, I put it in gem cleaning solution and now very sparkly but lost the milky look. How can I get the look back as it looks more like CITRine now?

      THANKS FOR YOUR HELP

  8. Thank you for having such an informative site. My mother purchased this opal triplet for me when she was visiting Australia. It was a brooch she gotfrom a pawn shop, which we had made into a ring. Since it has become a ring, it is cloudy. They had to remove the stone from the setting to make the ring, and it has lost its brilliance. What can I do to refresh it? Any help or ideas will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Lisa

  9. Hi All,

    This is a welo opal. Seems to be dead. Was looked after well, and still. Lost its fire. Can it be restored somehow?

    1. Hello, I am having the same issue. My opal ring from my mother is cloudy. Suggestions on how to control this would be highly appreciated! Thanks!

    2. I have a lovely triplet opal from my grandmother which is completely cloudy as well. I found by accident that putting it in water restores the colours. Any help would be super appreciated.

  10. I found your website by accident and wondering if you can help me. I have inherited opal jewellery from my mother-in-law and would like any advise on how to clean them. I have attached images of them, as you can see the opal on the ring is cloudy. I would appreciate any information that would help improve the look of these. Thank you in advance.

  11. I have inherited opal jewllery from my mother-in-law and would like any advise on how to clean them. I have attached images of them, as you can see the opal on the ring is cloudy. I would appreciate any advice that would improve the appearance of them. Thanks in advance.

  12. I was given a nice opal with emerald ring in silver for my anniversary. I have been trying to keep it out of water and detergent since I have heard how delicate opals are. I unconsciously washed my hands this morning and looked down to see my stone had gone yellow and most of the color was gone! I do believe it was labeled an Ethiopian opal. I notice most of the color has returned-perhaps it is a bit more “milky” than before. Is there a way to gently dry it out and get all the brilliance back? Should I keep it out of water completely? How does this work? Does the opal literally soak up water? Thanks for the information!

    1. I’m so sorry, been trying to send the photo a couple of times but I just keep on getting an error message. Let me try again…. It still doesn’t work. I emailed you the photo, can check it please? Thank you

  13. Hi! My boyfriend gave me this opal ring for my birthday because it’s my birthstone and it also happens to be my favorite. What kind of opal is this? Can you tell if it’s synthetic or not? The ring is a bit big for me and I want to have it resized but I’m scared it might damage the opal. What’s the best way to care for opals? Can you share some cleaning tips as well so it can last long? This is my very first opal and I’m hoping to have it with me for many years so I can pass it on to my future daughter. Thanks!

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