October is Opal Month - Tips for Caring for Opals
Continuing with the theme of October, we bring you some more helpful info about opals! While opals are known for their unique radiant beauty, one of the drawbacks to owning them is their propensity for cracking. Lab created opals offer the benefit of being very hard, which is an advantage over real opals, but they just aren't quite the same in terms of color. Opals are usually somewhere between 5.5-6.5 on the Moh's hardness scale, which means they are leaning towards the softer side. 10 is the hardest number, which is what diamonds are. So, let's discuss a few ways you can better take care of your opals to make sure they aren't going to crack on you.
We will distinguish between solid opals and doublets and triplets from here on out. With solid opals, the hardness is roughly equivalent to the same hardness as glass, to give a familiar reference point. Avoid wearing your opal in any kind of tougher environment, such as doing any gardening, lawn mowing, furniture moving, or anything else where you might be in danger of having the stone get scratched. Solid opals are fine to be around water, so hand washing is ok. Just make sure you aren't subjecting them to temperature extremes, like very hot or very cold, or very low humidity. This too will also risk them cracking.
Doublets & Triplets:
There are some differences when caring for doublets and triplets compared to solid opals. Doublet and triplet opals are comprised of multiple layers being glued together, so being exposed to water for longer periods of time will damage them by splitting those layers apart from each other. You will notice the opal begin to appear cloudy looking if this happens to it. If you shower with it a time or two, or get caught outside in a rainstorm, there's no need to worry: prolonged exposure is the issue.
Solid opals can be cleaned with a mild detergent with warm water and a soft brush or a cloth. Do not use any harsh chemicals (such as bleach), ever. That's generally true for most jewelry, but it's especially true for opals. Doublets and triplets, being more delicate, should be cleaned with a damp cloth, and a mild detergent. Do not soak them or submerge them in the water; again, prolonged water exposure will ruin them. Furthermore, avoid ultrasonic cleaners like the plague, as the vibrations they produce can cause a solid opal to crack, and a doublet or a triplet to get water damaged. If the opal is looking dull or scratched, bringing it to a professional opal cutter can be a good idea so they can polish it up.
Finally, if you are going to store your opal for a while, you can put it in a sealed plastic bag with a cloth in there for padding and protection. If it's going to be stored for a long period of time, add a few drops of water in a cotton pad and put it up against the opal so as to keep the stone from drying out in low humidity environments.
There you have it! Those are some simply ways to take care of your opals, and keep them looking beautiful for years to come.