Is your opal jewelry turned yellow, cloudy, or will not shine anymore?
Don’t worry because we will guide you on how to clean and polish those opals to restore them to their former glory with these tips for care and polishing.
How To Fix a Cloudy Opal (EXPLAINED)
Opals can get dull for several reasons.
One of the main reasons is water, especially if you own a Duplet or Triplet Opal with conjoined pieces.
Accumulation of dirt over the years or gardening with the jewels on can rub off the shine.
Cleaning Opal Jewelry
Opals are fussy compared to other rock gemstones and need as much care as fragile eggs.
If you are planning to buy some opal pendants or already own an opal ring, be prepared to take good care of them.
A well-looked after opal jewel can last over ten years, while a neglected one will hardly last two years.
The opal is cloudy because water is wedged in between the layers and the accumulation of dirt and grime.
In the first case, you will have to hire a lapidary expert.
Maybe they can revive, but dirt and grime need a little cleaning followed by polishing.
The method of cleaning the opal gems will be dictated by the type of jewelry you own.
There are three types of opals depending on the make; the doublet, the triplet, and the solid opal.
The first two need lots of care compared to the solid or all-opal jewel.
If you don’t know what you’ve got, place the opal on its side and judge whether you can see layers.
Two layers mean a doublet, three indicate a triplet, and one layer means a solid opal.
The doublet comprises a thin wafer of opal set on a black background using a special adhesive.
A triplet comprises a thin slice of opal on a black backing topped with a glass cover for extra protection and enhances the shine.
However, the focus has nowadays shifted from glass to plastic outer layers.
Generally, whatever the type of opal, avoid using any abrasives, chemicals, or toothpaste while cleaning.
Lapidary experts recommend cleaning with warm soapy water and a jewelry cloth.
Begin by mixing a mild unscented detergent or soap in a glass of lukewarm water.
The water should be as near room temperature as possible because hot water and cold water may cause your opal jewelry to crack.
Cleaning a solid opal is much easier.
Dip it in the soapy water and swish it around for a few seconds.
Dry with a clean mesh cloth or microfiber cleaning cloth for jewelry.
It is not affected by water in any way.
You have to be more careful with the doublet or triplet.
Don’t immerse them in water because the water may dissolve the glue, causing your opal to appear cloudy and peeling the joined layers.
Lapidary professionals have come up with new and better methods of setting them up, but we would not advise you to soak them in water.
Wet the mesh cloth in the soapy solution and wipe the opal gently until it’s clean.
If you insist on using a brush, use a very soft brush, because even a toothbrush can scratch your opal.
Typically, clean the opals once after a couple of months to avoid excessive accumulation of grime, making them appear dull.
When choosing a mesh or jewelry cloth, choose according to the setting of your gems.
That means that you pick a gold cloth for gold setting, silver cloth for silver setting, and so on.
It would always be best to keep the cloth in a locked bag because dirt can scratch the opal.
The household dust has a Mohs hardness scale of around 7.5 compared to opals 5.5.
For those who think the process is very complicated, take the gems to professional cleaners like ultrasonic cleaners, but be very careful.
Never ever clean the triplet opal jewelry or doublet opal jewelry, because these machines will weaken the bond holding the different layers together, and your opal will consequently fall apart.
However, round opals can be cleaned with ultrasonic cleaners because they don’t have layers.
Also, don’t try cleaning the opals with other extreme methods, such as steaming that exposes the opals to extreme temperatures.
These rocks are made up of up to 10% water. Extreme heat will take water out of the opal, causing it to crack.
Cleaning the metal set and other gemstones
The opal is set in either gold or silver and may have added gems like a diamond.
You should clean these frames too.
Turn the opal’s face down, pour some water on the back and clean thoroughly with a toothbrush.
Ensure that the brush doesn’t touch the opal itself.
After everything you have read above, you understand that opals are very fragile, and one wrong move can scratch them.
Our advice is to leave the polishing process in the hands of professional lapidary polishers.
If your opals look dull and have lost the play of color in them, return them to the certified store where you bought them, and they will polish the opals for you.
Some older opals just need a good scrubbing and will dazzlingly like the new ones.
If you plan to sell yours, repolishing will increase the market value.
Antique Opal Jewelry
Antique Opal Jewelry has been around for longer than you have been because most of the opals in Britain and Australia are inherited.
At the beginning of the century, Britain was the main opal importer globally, which led to the invention of the doublets and the triplets.
Technology was not advanced then, and some of the opals were bezels set with diamonds using human hands.
The setting glue wasn’t much advanced, and you need to be careful when handling these aged jewels.
Even senior citizens need special attention!
Some doublets too appear in the scene, so when you plan to sell your jewel, determine its type first.
Some people claiming to own solid opals actually own triplets, which is worth much less.
You can test the type by placing the jewel in the freezer for five minutes.
A thin line of ice should appear where the two layers were joined.
You can clean the antiques using soapy water and a toothbrush, although a larger percentage of antique collectors prefer a natural tarnished appearance to appearance.
Avoid extreme temperature changes if you want your opal to last long.
These include extremely hot or cold environments.
Avoid airtight security safes because they lock out all the humidity.
Maintain the water content of the opals if you have to store them for a long time.
Wrap them in moist cotton wool or cloth and put them in an airtight container or a plastic bag.
The water will keep the opal from losing its water content and cracking.
Store opals separately, but if you must store them with other jewelry, wrap them in cloth pieces.
Remember, we said that opal has the same hardness as glass, so it can be scratched by metals and harder jewelry such as diamonds.
Wearing Opal Jewelry
Opal is a mineral composed of sand and water.
Most opals have a moisture content between 2% and 10%, and if they dry out, they will crack.
If exposed to extreme temperature changes, they can also rupture.
Be careful when leaving heated areas and entering extremely low temperature areas, and vice versa.
Avoid prolonged exposure to high temperatures, and avoid immersing the jewel in extremely hot or cold water.
Take off your opal jewelry when gardening because the garden dirt and soil will rub off the stone’s polish.
You can not rule out the possibility of hitting it against a rock or accidentally smashing it with gardening tools when you get extra energetic.
Water and dirt are the main culprits for cloudy opals.
If your opal is cloudy due to water infiltration, take it to a professional jeweler.
Still, if it’s cloudy because of dirt, we have outlined the process of cleaning and polishing the jewels for you.
Interested in learning more about opals? Check out:
- How To Tell The Difference Between Agates and Opals
- Is Chalcedony The Same As Opal?
- A Beginner’s Guide To Labradorite
- Can You Soak Opalite In Water?
- Can Opal Scratch Glass?
- Types of Rocks that Are Colorless
- Opalite vs Moonstone: What’s The Difference?
- Labradorite vs Opal: A Guide
- Tips for Visiting Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine (Nevada)