Opal Repairs Without Machinery

Opal Repairs without machinery– in ten steps

Old Opal Cutting Machine at the Opal Miners Hut

opal cutting machine

If you don’t have any machinery, you can do it by hand this way:

  1. You have to find a piece of opal that 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 rubberized mini discs that come with the machine. You can use the rubber from old bike or tire 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. Opal repairs without machinery takes a bit of time to get the hang of. 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 here for some advice and a short video. Our opal eBook is now available freely to Opalmine visitors. 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.

Not so difficult if you follow the steps above carefully.

Just take it one step at a time, and leave a message for us here if needed or take a more in-depth look at the subject if you want to learn opal cutting properly here If you have a scratch on your stone which is set in a ring or pendant, you will just have to take it more carefully using smaller pieces of sandpaper and a cloth with cerium oxide. opal repairs without machinery is possible in this situation. Talk to us about it in the contacts form if you need help.

We hope that this article, which is the result of a combined experience of over 40 years in the opal industry from the time when i personally had to learn how to do Opal Repairs without machinery. If you would like to see our new movie on the subject, leave your details in the blog below or fill in the contacts form.

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26 Responses to “Opal Repairs Without Machinery”

  1. Judy

    Hi I’m looking for advice on replacing a possibly triplet? Opal for my mums ring that I ruined by putting in water and it lost all of its colour:( How do I measure the stone for a replacement? And where
    I could buy one? Thankyou

    Reply
    • admin

      Judy regarding your mums opal. if you have a mm ruler just measure it from top to bottom and from side to side and let me know the basic color of the opal. If you dont have a mm gauge just use whatever ruler you have. let me know and i will give you some options. best wishes Judy, peter

      Reply
  2. Carolyn

    Hi Peter, I am not sure if both the photos have loaded so here is the other one that I cannot see.
    Kind Regards
    Carolyn

    Reply
  3. Carolyn

    Hello Peter,
    I came across your website while I was trying to find out what has happened to my wedding ring. It is ‘a round cabochom white opal with medium to strong pay of colour and an approximate weight of 3.8cts’.

    I took it off yesterday and when I went back to it it was foggy. It has totally lost its fire and spark and looks a lot darker. I have attached two pictures, one as it was and one in its new state.

    I would really appreciate your advice as to what has happened and how to fix it. I have only had the ring since December and only worn it since April when we got married.

    Kind Regards
    Carolyn

    Reply
    • admin

      regarding crystal opal: Carolyn this could be a hydrophane opal which is defined here I believe that this type of opal can lose its color, if you put your hands in water. Perhaps the color will come back. I am not sure as the opalmine site only sells Australian opal. If it continues to give you problems, its best if you take it back and complain. Thats about all i can say Carolyn. I have never heard of this happening with Australian opal. Sorry i cant help further. Peter

      Reply
  4. Mike McGonegal

    I wanted to ask you a quick question. What can I do with this ring to polish it. Should I take it to a lapidary or is their something I can do myself. The second picture is the same ring, slightly oiled.

    Thank you,

    Mike McGonegal
    Napoleon, Michigan
    USA

    Reply
    • admin

      mike, did you get my answer to your question about your opal? i had some site problems earlier today when i was working on your answer. let me know if you didnt get it. peter

      Reply
      • Mike McGonegal

        I did not get your initial reply Peter. Looking forward to hearing from you.

        Reply
        • admin

          dont know what happened there Mike. i think we were off the net temporarily and my answer did not get processed. Anyway i was just thanking you for the great picture of the opal. i believe it is an Andamooka Matrix from south Australia. These stones look much like black opals but they are quite pale and porous when they come out of the ground and they are treated with a carbon process that turns them dark or black giving them a black opal appearance. this stone if it was a black opal from lightning ridge would be worth many thousands of dollars but as a matrix probably a few hundred. the reason why you dont have a brilliant shine is that some matrix stones are difficult to get a brilliant shine because of their porosity so i dont think you will be able to improve it much. that’s about all i can say. hope that answers your question. best wishes, Peter

          Reply
  5. william

    Hi there! I was wondering if an opal can be repaired following a slight chip on the top layer. I’ve read of clear resin fillers which are filled into the chip, then buffed and the result is almost as good as new. This would be good news if there such a repair process for opals. Many thanks.

    Reply
    • admin

      william i will send you an email so that you can make connection with us. best idea it so email me a picture of the stone so that i can offer some advice. But before sending the picture, please reduce the pixels to around 1000 and make sure its a clear picture or it wont be easy to see whats going on. No charge. Pleased to help if i can, peter

      Reply
  6. Joyce

    Peter
    I have been following your website and the instructions for hand polishing an opal gemstone. I have been using various brands of sand paper and various grits ranging from about 800 to 1500. At about 800 I still see pits and scratches. Could it be that I’m causing these scratches due to the quality of the paper. The ring is inexpensive and in bad condition. I bought it at my first job in a jewelry store at the age of 18 and now I’m 73 and want to restore it as a keepsake. I will attach pictures but I’m afraid they are very magnified. I enjoy your comments and appreciate your timely response. Thank you. Joyce

    PS With the naked eye the stone is still somewhat opaque.

    Reply
    • Peter

      Joyce, its not the opaqueness which is the problem. Opaque just means that the color is quite dense and is not so translucent which with a crystal opal is a good thing. actually black or boulder opals are just crystal opals with a natural dark backing which makes them extremely opaque. what you have is a classic ‘orange peel’ effect on the surface of the stone. that means that you have started the polishing process too early. you have to cut the surface back to the point where the pitted effect is removed. you have to spend more time on a sharper sandpaper such as 600 grit but be careful with it. try rubbing the 600 or 700 sandpaper on a piece of glass or a bottle first and take the sharpness off it before working on the stone but if that doesn’t clean it back, use the new paper on it and then gradually change the paper and work up to around 1200. then make a past of cerium oxide using a cotton cloth such as an old pillow sheet. let me know if you cant get cerium locally and i will post you some. No charge. post only costs a couple of dollars and you can have the powder for free.

      Reply
      • Joyce

        Thank you for the advice. I will carefully follow your instructions. I have the cerium oxide. It’s pink and very feels very fine to the touch.

        Thanks again Joyce

        Reply
  7. Chrissy

    Hi
    I recently inherited a ring with a reasonable sized round opal set in a ring of tiny diamonds. The opal surface seems a little
    dull and I wondered how I could either polish it myself, or track down a reputable jeweller in the Auckland area of NZ who could do it for me. I have no idea where to begin and google put you at the top of my search 🙂
    Any advice appreciated – thanks

    Reply
    • Peter

      Chrissy, the first part of this article explains it pretty well: https://opalmine.com/opal-repairs-without-machinery/ but just to clarify. you really just need to get some wet and dry sandpaper from the hardware store. 600 to 800 grit would be ok. if the stone has some deep scratches you will need to sand the scratches out but if its just dull and needs a polish you will need some cerium oxide and rub it with a cotton cloth with a little water as a paste. if you aren’t able to get any in your town just give me your address and i will post you some in an ordinary envelope. only costs a couple of dollars so dont worry about it. If you want it done by me you will have to send it by registered airmail and that could cost up to $50 by the time the return postage is done. no charge for the job. for customs you will have to state that its an item being returned for repair. i could explain it a bit better by voice. Peter

      Reply
  8. Chris

    I have an Australian opal pendant which I dropped and a piece has broken off . It is a triangular shape and it was a point which broke. It appears to be a very clean break. As far as I know it is a solid opal. Black on the back and mostly turquoise colours on top. Can it be glued back together? Thank you, Chris.

    Reply
  9. sarleas

    here’s me again 😉

    i’m sorry i wasn’t able to take clearer pictures, i might give it a try again later….

    now, just generally, without any pictures and all, could you tell me HOW a white opal could be damaged? i mean, the stone was fine until i wore it in the shower, it might have got some soap on it….would that be enough to damage it?
    i read that soaking it in water might help to “restore” it….would just redoing the surface with the instructions you’ve posted above clear damage done by water/soap? also, i read that water, theoretically shouldn’t damage it, on contrary….

    now here is what i did….i put the necklace into some water….at first nothing changed, and then, once I removed the necklace from the water, the stone started turning from “stained teeth yellow” back to milky white with its reflections….as i don’t have a picture of the stone before this incident, i cannot be quite sure, but i think it’s quite close to what it used to be….maybe a bit less “brilliant”.
    I’m sorry for all my questions, i just don’t know enough about opals and their qualities….

    thank you,

    sarleas

    Reply
    • admin

      Sarleas, it sounds like you might have an opal from Africa. This type of opal is called hydrophane and water effects it because of its porosity. i dont know what you can do with that. I only deal in Australian Opal which is totally secure and is not effected by water. If you know where you got it, take it back and ask for a refund. I can always find you a replacement stone but that will depend on your budget. sorry i could not be of further help but i did my best. best wishes Sarleas. Peter

      Reply
  10. sarleas

    sorry for the double posting earlier, somthing went wrong with my connection and it posted it twice.

    going to send you pictures by email, as it seems i can’t attach them on this forum.

    Reply
    • admin

      No problems Sarleas. i got your picture and as i mentioned in the email, i couldnt really tell what the problem is with the opal because the picture wasnt clear enough. if it needs polishing, just read the information here and if its not deeply scratched, try to get on to some cerium or tin oxide and give it a heavy rub using a cotton cloth. It should bring the lustre up again. make a paste out of the dry polish and rub it vigerously. hope this helps you. Peter

      Reply
  11. sarleas

    Thank you very much for answering to my problem.

    I have a small heartshaped pendant with a white opal in the center, surrounded by diamonds. tonight, after my shower i noticed, that the opal was really dull looking, its color changed a little from white to yellowish ( a bit like stained teeth maybe). when looking closely, the original shine can still be seen a little. i used to only wear the necklace for special occasions but i kept it on after christmas, for a change. i usually shower with my “everyday” jewelry on, so i never thought about it much but i am really worried that i might have ruined the gem.

    thank you so much in advance for your answer!

    best regards,
    sarleas

    Reply
  12. sarleas

    Thank you very much for answering to my problem.

    I have a small heart shaped pendant with a white opal in the center, surrounded by diamonds. tonight, after my shower, i noticed, that the opal was really dull looking, its color changed a little from white to yellowish (a bit like stained teeth maybe). when lookin closely, the original shine can still be seen a little. i used to only wear the necklace for special occasions but i kept it on after christmas, for a change. i usually shower with my “everyday” jewelry on, so i never thought about it much but i am really worried that i might have ruined the gem.

    EDIT: over night, it turned from the yellowish tint back to a milky color….it began in the center of the gem and then “moved” outwards. there is still a tiny hint of a red reflection in it now….i’m sorry the pictures are not great, i couldn’t used the flash because of the reflects from the diamonds….

    Questions: can the opal be “fixed”? if not, could it be replaced with an australian white opal? what about would be the cost of that?

    thanks so much in advance for your answers

    best regards,
    Sarleas

    Reply

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