Opals have emerged as one of the big jewelry trends of 2014. Cate Blanchett’s stunning Chopard opal earrings received almost as much attention at the Academy Awards as her Oscar-winning performance. Her earrings demonstrated all the traits that are making opals so popular right now: they are lustrous, reflecting the fire of many colors. Blanchett explained her decision to don them for the Oscars, saying that opals are “must-haves” for Australians, as they are the country’s national gemstone. Opals are found in deposits around the world, but are most abundant in Australia, which produces 97 percent of the world’s opals.
As more women purchase opals, or pull vintage pieces from their mother’s or grandmother’s jewelry box, they probably do not know a lot about proper care and cleaning of the stone. Opals are delicate, requiring a gentle, non-ammoniated jewelry cleaning formula and tender care with a polishing cloth. In fact, the best way to clean opal jewelry is to dampen a polishing cloth with a gentle cleaner and just wipe the opals clean. This is especially true if the stones are glued into the piece, as they often are when used in doublets, triplets, brooches and even rings. It is not safe to soak such pieces in a jewelry cleaner, as the glue can come loose.
Kristie Nicolosi, President & CEO of The Kingswood Company, the world’s leading supplier of fine jewelry care products, shared some other information about opals.
“I attended the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show last year and learned something surprising about opals,” explained Nicolosi. “If you don’t store them properly, they can literally turn to dust!”
That’s right; while a diamond is forever, opals actually have a lifespan. Because they are composed of five to 10 percent water, opals will deteriorate over time as they dry out. As they dry, they turn milky, losing their beautiful layers of color, and may crack. Once they become too dry, one can try to add moisture back, but often they cannot be repaired. That is why it is very important to store them in cool, moist places, minimizing exposure to heat and dry environments.
It is pretty hot and dry down under, so Aussies like Ms. Blanchett must be extra careful.