Opal Processing

Opal Processing, polishing and cutting

Learn opal processing and cutting to gain a skill that will stay with you for the rest of your life and could possibly give you a business as a bonus. Opals are the most fascinating among the various types of precious stones. They are not so difficult to process if you know the tricks. I’ve been cutting and polishing them for over 40 years so i can offer you a bit of experience.  –  Peter 

 

australian-opal-processing

Peter, processing opal 1985

It is an awe-inspiring experience to bring out the brilliance and the beauty of the opal with every cut you make into the raw cold stone.

This process of learning to cut opal will require a lot of patience, experience and skill.  Take a look below

 

Opal Processing – You Tube Videos

Opal Processing: Benefit from experienced Cutters

 

Master this amazing skill and learn opal cutting from experienced mentors or from a vocational school. If you are a student, please use the blog page below to ask questions or make comments. We will offer as much help as possible in getting you on the road to being an expert. Here is a more extensive movie on the subject:

 

If you are attending a lapidary or opal cutting class, please mention this site to your teacher and ask him or her to contribute towards the discussion so that all can benefit.  Below is a brief synopsis of the different stages involved in cutting a opal.

How to cut and polish opal by Peter Brusaschi

Read the book now available free on this site

The first thing an opal cutter has to learn is to take a good look at the parcel of raw opal stones to be cut and polished. Usually this is done under water for a start so that dust and grime can first be washed away.

After selecting the stones that look the best, you can use a diamond saw to slice away any rubbish and a diamond wheel (or carborundum wheel) to rub the stone and give the opal a rough shape.Sometimes you use the grinder first before using the diamond blade. Both these machines work with one another to start off the opal cutting process. As you are doing this, the colorless opal is cut or ground off and the basic shape of the opal emerges.

To learn opal cutting start with the rough opal

Rough opal from the Coober Pedy Australia field Opal Processing-The second stage The rubbed stones are then mounted on ‘dop’ sticks so that the stone can be held easily in your hand and taken to the next opal cutting steps which is to shape it further into either ovals, squares, rectangles, or free forms.This is done first with a diamond or carborundum grinding wheel, then to various sandpaper stages, and finally to a leather lap primed with cerium oxide or tin oxide to polish the opal to perfection.You can also use rubberized diamond wheels for this process but many old cutters like myself prefer the old system which is cheaper and (some feel) gives a better result.

black opals from Lightning Ridge

Processed black opals

Its not so difficult to cut and polish

Opal is not a difficult stone to cut when you get used to it and use the right opal cutting equipment.. The main thing is to look for the very best way that the color can be exposed, taking into consideration imperfections and crazes (cracks) that are often there.

The only thing you have to be careful of in the finishing process is that you don’t overheat the stone or you can cause it to become pitted and even crack. Here is a more extensive movie on the subject:

boulder opal Australia

Boulder opal Crocodile carving

Compare opal processing with other gemstones

It’s fascinating to learn all types of gemstone cutting but in the case of faceting stones, it’s a bit more difficult for the student because it often requires a lot more skill and some of the machinery required takes a lot more time to master with fewer quick results.

Faceting is a long drawn out process. One stone can take hours to produce and you only have to make one false step and the results can be disappointing.

Also, if you are thinking of eventually turning it in to a business, keep in mind that large experienced companies have pretty much taken control of this niche in the gemstone industry.

 The Difference

It’s because cutting cabochons (round or dome shaped stones) is not so complicated and can be done on relatively cheap machinery that is not so difficult with a bit of guidance to make yourself.

The fact is too that it’s still possible to produce opal stones which are unique and in demand in various parts of the world and with a bit of initiative and advice from experienced dealers, you can turn it into a little business eventually or at worst, you can use your productions as personalized gifts that can save you a lot of money during gift giving times.

Setting your stones into pendants and other jewelry items

It’s also not so difficult to go to the next step and set your opals into jewelry pieces that can either be sold or given to your loved ones and friends.

Satisfaction in opal processing

There is nothing more satisfying and fascinating than skilfully revealing the hidden beauty of the raw precious opal stone. We have our own eBook  which gives you thirty years of experience, mining, setting and selling experience .

Opal Processing discussions

You can all join in the discussion to the benefit of everyone. If some can afford it, you can order $120 worth of rough opal and get the cd for free. That way the system can be tried with little expense. We can also include some potch for free so that you can experiment with the cheaper material without the risk of damaging something valuable just to make your efforts to learn opal cutting pay for itself.

27 Responses to “Opal Processing”

    • admin

      joyce regarding opal valuation system. I believe i answered that question yesterday. just confirm. thanks Joyce, peter

      Reply
    • admin

      Joyce: regarding opal smart chart. Joyce, yes, Peter Evans sadly passed away and a lot of technical knowledge with him. On top of that, black opal is getting so rare that it’s difficult to obtain stones now from Lightning Ridge unless they find new fields. The Australian government is now getting into the act and you can check out this site: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2009/09/01/2673147.htm On top of that maybe you have heard that there have been big finds of crystal opal in Africa which up until recently have not been cuttable because of the propensity to cracking or crazing, the opal being hydrophane and there is a bit of a question about genuineness of stones because they apparently can be treated quite easily in a similar way to Andamooka Matrix (I believe). However more recent finds in the Wello mines have produced more secure stones but there are reports that they lose their color when submerged in water, but apparently it comes back. Hope that helps Joyce, Peter

      Reply
  1. Bob Barrett

    Peter…..What % of a rough opal is generally resulted after a cut/polish?….Thanks….

    Reply
    • admin

      opal rough finished results: Bob, in the case of white or crystal opal from Coober Pedy, if the stones have been cleaned up out of the rough it can result in two thirds results but this is only approximate. It really depends on the weight and size of the rough you purchase. With boulder opal there is not way of telling because the color is usually only in thin veins that use the boulder ironstone as a natural backing. But it often comes in large chunks. Best way to buy it of course is as rubs not rough. that way you can see what you’re getting and have some fun with flexidrives for undulating surfaces. hope that helps. thanks for the question Bob.

      Reply
    • admin

      regarding rough opal. i think i answered this question but let me know if not. i will send you an email as a double check. peter

      Reply
  2. ron

    My wife and I have made jewelry for years and do many shows but most is bead and stone, now I want to be able to cut polish my own stones
    so, I wish to set up a shop can you recommend equipment RE: genie? or your recommendation
    from table to saws etc. oh yes and type of rough you would recommend to buy from you
    I have good hand skillls and tool user, good feel for stuff,depth preception,presure etc.
    anty help would be great

    Reply
  3. Bereket

    I want to learn cutting opals. I don’t have any experiance in opal cutting or any other gem stone cutting. I would like to have hands on training from a live person, do you offer a class other than the cd you sell. I live in L.A. any training school information would be much appreciated.

    Reply
    • admin

      Bereket, just start by reading my eBook which is the same as the CD. i will email you and after you reply i will send you a free copy of the eBook if you are OK with receiving 14 megs. just let me know. you dont need a school for a start. maybe later you can find a lapidary club in your area to learn the basics but opal cutting needs some specialised help. just go here for a start and leave your details.

      Reply
      • Elisha

        I’m a single mom trying to make some extra money to pay our bills. Would you mind sending the eBook to me also? I live in Maryland, and currently have 7 small rough opals that I’ll be starting off with. – Thanks so much.

        Reply
  4. darren sandles

    hi would like to get started in the world of gem cutting but were would i find the tools like the cutters and polishing wheel i have a wet dimond tile cutter would i be abel to ues that to cut the rough welo opals i have if not what type of cutter should i ues and were would i be able to get one from many thanks d sandles

    Reply
    • admin

      Darren, so sorry i did not get back to you before in regard to opal cutting. For some reason i did not receive the alert that you had posted this question. I think the best idea is for you to leave your details here http://www.opals.co/contact-us/ and send me a reminder to the email you will see to the right of the contact form. I will arrange to send you a copy of my opal eBook. just make sure that your email system can handle 14 megs. Best wishes Darren, Peter

      Reply
    • admin

      Darren, not sure if i got back to you about this so if not, please leave your contact details here and i will be pleased to help. best wishes and good opal cutting. Peter

      Reply
  5. admin

    Thought i would post these comments i just made to a customer, for the benefit of all. Just some good little tips on opal cutting in answer to a question about when to go from one grade of sandpaper to the other:

    Hi Rich. What sort of opal are you cutting at present? Anyway, you start off with something like 320 to 400 grit, then proceed to 600 grit and finally 1200 grit, keeping in mind that when a 600 grits gets smoother after using it for a while, it can achieve just about the same pre polish as 1200. The idea it to just remove all the scratches. So just keep checking before you move on to the next stage. If your eyesight is not so good you will have to get some magnifying lenses. You can just use those cheap glasses you buy in cheap stores if you like. Just measure the difference between your eyes and the wheel and take a magazine with you to the store and check the same distance to get glasses that will make the writing very clear from the distance. Then you go on to cerium oxide on a leather or felt wheel. It’s just a matter of fiddling and testing and you will get the hang of it. start with some cheap potch so you don’t ruin good stones. Let me know how you go. Peter

    Reply
  6. admin

    Thought i would post these comments i just made to a customer, for the benefit of all. Just some good little tips on opal cutting in answer to a question about when to go from one grade of sandpaper to the other:

    Hi Rich. What sort of opal are you cutting at present? Anyway, you start off with something like 320 to 400 grit, then proceed to 600 grit and finally 1200 grit, keeping in mind that when a 600 grits gets smoother after using it for a while, it can achieve just about the same pre polish as 1200. The idea it to just remove all the scratches. So just keep checking before you move on to the next stage. If your eyesight is not so good you will have to get some magnifying lenses. You can just use those cheap glasses you buy in cheap stores if you like. Just measure the difference between your eyes and the wheel and take a magazine with you to the store and check the same distance to get glasses that will make the writing very clear from the distance. Then you go on to cerium oxide on a leather or felt wheel. It’s just a matter of fiddling and testing and you will get the hang of it. start with some cheap potch so you don’t ruin good stones. Let me know how you go. Peter

    Reply
    • admin

      Re: Dremmels for opal polishing: Daniel, maybe they dont have dremmels in the hardware stores over there. And of course, your electricity voltage may be different to Australia. we are 220v here. Just check that detail. I can get you one of them here but you would need the right voltage unless you can get a voltage regulator that will suit. Dremmels in Australia have mini workheads with thicker shafts which means they are different to the ones used in dental work. still, this should not be a problem its just that you would need to manufacture a workhead that would suit the opal sanding and polishing process. if you want me to get you one that you can fiddle with, i think they cost around $50 AUD plus freight, maybe $30 plus fiddling around to help you with some other bits and pieces. Perhaps allow $100 but would need to double check. let me know if you want me to check for you. incidentally do you have opal to work on? There are opals in Indonesia but usually the type that crack. too high water content. best wishes Daniel.

      Reply
      • daniel

        Thank’s Peter, how about the Dremmels cutting blade (the flexible one which is very safe for the finger but sharp enough to cut the stone), it’s only sold as one package with the cuttng machine or available to buy just the blade/ cutting blade?? and some details whether the blade is suitable to any cutting machine ( can be installed in another cutting machine?) thank’s Peter, best wishes

        Reply
        • admin

          Daniel, all diamond blades are the same. the heavy thick ones they use for cutting concrete. the very thin ones about size 6″ are used for lapidary cutting in an opal cutting workshop. The little mini ones you can get from dental suppliers but these ones wont fit the dremmels because the shank size is different. The dremmels have to be adapted to working with hobby type cutting. otherwise you have to pay big money for flexidrives from dental suppliers. I will see if i can find diamond blades to fit the dremmels. the mini tools that come with them are mainly for cutting and sanding wood. I will send you an email with some instructions to build a sander p0lisher for opal at home. so just experiment with that first. If i can find your email address. otherwise leave me your email address in the contacts form at this site.

          Reply
          • daniel

            Thank’s Peter, you know all the 6″ cutting disc I have and also available here in my place is too thick for the stone, just want to know whether available in Australia the thinner (1 mm) 6″ cutting disc?? thank’s

          • admin

            Daniel, sure they are available here. not so expensive. Would need to check for you. but you have to know the shaft size you are using as well so that they will fit. they usually come with some spacers too so they will fit either 1/2″ of 5/8″ shafts. but not sure what size you would have there. let me know.

  7. Ozlem Dogan

    Hello,
    I am a newcomer…
    What i know is that i lloooove opals, am creative and passionate and am looking for a “course” or something of the like so i can learn how to cut opals..
    I realise this is a very special skill and you learn with practice and getting an eye for your work.
    I dont know where to start and decided to google it.. but found no course.
    I have never used a power tool before but love to learn..
    Your suggestions and comments are most welcome..
    I thank you for your advice in advance.
    cheers
    oz

    Reply
    • admin

      Oz, There are a few things you can do. First of all read all you can about opal rough and opal cutting on this site, then you have a couple of alternatives, you can get the opal cutting CD for free or you can buy the CD on this site which gives you more verbal information . . You can get the CD itself for free too but it comes with $120 worth of rough opal. It represents nearly 40 years of experience in the opal industry. You can ask questions on this blog as well. hope that helps oz, where are you located? Peter

      Reply
  8. Susan Wong

    Hi Peter,

    Opalmine is my favourite website to looking for the opal productions!! I say this is because I learn lot beside I enjoy the charming productions but also can learn how to cut opal by myself which enrich my hobby!! I also enjoy the Peter’s proffesional writing skill that makes caculating him as a proffesional writer to be reaspected. I have told many of my jewellry collections friends to see how wonderful your productions are.

    I have a question: could you please tell what is the suitable power should I use for the polishing the opal stone? May I use the regular leather glue together to make a leather polish wheel?

    I am very appreciated to get a chance to share your knowledge with me!!

    Thanks,

    Susan

    From China

    Reply
    • admin

      Thanks for the compliments Susan. Appreciate your kind words. Just answering your first question about power. I believe China is very similar to Australia in its voltage system. Ours is around 220v. The USA i think is around 150 but I’m not sure of that. Maybe someone can help us with that detail. So as long as you get your electric motors locally the power should be fine. Only if you import from the USA will you need a power reduction device. In regard to the polishing wheel. Usually a polishing wheel is made by gluing some foam rubber on to a round wooden disk. You then have to purchase split chrome leather and wrap it around the wooden disc and staple it or nail it to the back of the disc. You can also use a felt wheel instead of this, primed with cerium oxide. I am not sure if you have lapidary supply stores in China. I don’t even know what you call ‘Lapidary'(stone cutting) over there so maybe you can let us know on this forum. Thanks for the questions Susan; I hope this has helped a little. Peter in Australia

      Reply

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