Those who are familiar with jewelry (jewellery in the U.K.) know what an opal pendant (hanger) is of course but we cannot assume that everyone, particularly the ‘blokes’ know what it is.
I can recall a time, before I became an opal cutter and an opal jewelry designer, that I didn’t know the difference between a pendant and a necklace or hanger. I knew it was something the ladies hung around their necks but that was the extent of my knowledge.
Opal Pendants in history
Here are some historical details and definitions of the term. Of course, pendants can be very popular with the gents as well, particularly in America with the very large following of American Indian Western jewelry where opal pendants are often called bolas or hangers. (The correct spelling is apparently Bolo, not bola) Some of the opal pendant hangers here can double as gents jewelry (jewellery) particularly if leather is used as a choker or necktie as in the case of a bola.
The difference between an opal pendant and an opal necklace
Well, actually, an opal pendant is usually either a single opal stones as illustrated (or perhaps a cluster) opal stone (or sapphire, or diamond, or whatever is your choice of gem) that is hung around the throat as a major feature, whereas a necklace as the term suggests ‘necklace’ is more like something that simulates a lace which extends either fully or partially as a part of the chain itself that surrounds the neck.
The Structure of an Opal Pendant
An opal pendant can have an elaborate surround or can be just a simple design. Whatever is the shape, they all consist of some basics.
The top of the pendant has to be attached to a chain, and that part is called a bale where the chain goes through. Sometimes an opal pendant will have two bales where the chain threads through twice, or it can have an extended or pipe like bale that the chain threads through.
A Bolo or Hanger often consists of a sliding clutch system where the leather whip necklace is threaded and adjusted just like a necktie.
Sometimes a small hole is drilled through the opal itself and the bale fits through that hole as is noted by the pendant to the extreme left above.
What Holds the Stone in the Opal Pendant?
The opal pendant is held together either by claws or by a bezel. There can be four claws which is most popular, or there can be many claws surrounding the stone. Very popular as well is a bezel setting. This means that the stone is held in all-round with either silver or gold. The jeweler has to actually rub the metal over the edge of the stone to hold it in place. This is an art in itself and must be approached very carefully.
The metal has to annealed (heat treated) to make the gold or silver the right texture so that it is not too difficult to rub. Great care must be taken so as to not damage the edge of the stone in the manufacturing of the opal pendant. Bezel set is a very secure system that is very practical for rings because of the harsh treatment given them at times. Below are some examples of bezel set opal pendants (hangers).
Opal Pendant Bales are often made the Feature of the Jewelry piece
The design can focus on the whole stone, or the design can be a feature of the bale at the top. Or there can be very little design at all, allowing the opal itself to dominate the setting.
This is often done with opal stones because of the fascination of the actual gem that does not need anything else to make a point, whereas at other times the opal pendant jewelry designer might feel that the stone needs a life. The examples above show a fairly plain design with a simple bale at the top. The interesting patterns in the opal are enough to create the right look.
The Opal Pendants here are examples of extra design put into the stone itself. The second and fourth pictures show the bale itself expanded and extended into the design surround, whereas the third example which we call the ‘lady Di’ design (named after the ring that Charles gave Diana and which is subsequently being given to Kate by Prince William but of course was a sapphire ring, not an opal pendant) has adjunct faceted crystal stones surrounding the opal pendant.
Opal pendant pieces are available online here You can click on a drop-down at the top of this page to select either the most expensive ones first or the cheapest first.