Opal jewelry requires care and gentle handling.
Fine quality precious opal can be composed of up to 10% water! As a result, opal is a relatively soft gemstone and has only fair to poor toughness.
Opals are susceptible to damage from loss of moisture, high heat, sudden temperature change, intense light, and many chemicals.
This means that opal jewelry should be carefully handled during wear, storage, cleaning, and repair.
1. Be careful not to knock opal jewelry during wear. A hard knock can chip, crack, and even break an opal.
2. Do not expose opal jewelry to extreme temperature changes. True story - a friend of one of Kimberly's GIA instructors was at a ski lodge wearing her favorite opal ring, a family heirloom. She had been sitting by a roaring fire and went outside for a moment. She looked down at her hand and the opal in her ring had completely disintegrated! What happened? Well, basically, the water content in the opal (warm from the cozy fire) suddenly expanded in the freezing cold temperature to the point where the expansion blew apart the gemstone. The lesson of this story is to be careful when and where you wear fine opal jewelry.
2. Store opal jewelry separately in a soft jewelry case or pouch, away from other jewelry. Most other gems are harder than opals and can scratch opal surfaces if stored or worn together.
3. Do not keep opal jewelry stored in a plastic bag or any other airtight container. Do not keep opal jewelry in a safe deposit box or vault. The lack of moisture from circulating air can cause fractures in opals, referred to as "crazing."
4. Opals may be cleaned with a damp clean soft microfiber cloth. When more thorough cleaning is necessary, wash opal jewelry gently in warm soapy water and then rinse well with warm water. Never clean opal jewelry in a steam or ultrasonic cleaner.
5. Periodically, every 6 months of so, replenish moisture in opals by soaking them in pure distilled water for at least 24 hours. Regular drinking water will not suffice because it contains mineral ions that inhibit moisture absorption into the stone. While oil will not moisturize an opal, it can help seal in moisture after a distilled water bath. A water bath is not advisable for costume jewelry, jewelry with foil-backed stones, and certain metals or other materials and components. Accordingly, before placing any piece of opal jewelry in a distilled water bath, you should contact the jewelry manufacturer to learn if this process is recommended and safe.
6. Have opal jewelry repaired by a qualified professional.