How to Care for Opals
Opal is Australia’s National Gemstone, with the Black Opal featuring as the State Emblem of NSW. Opal is known as the “Queen of Gems”. It is approximately 5000 times rarer than diamond! So it is a valuable gemstone that is worth taking care of.
Just like any other gemstone, opal should be stored separately to your other gems. The two most common causes of damage are: 1) Wearing your jewellery while sleeping, and 2) “Bundling” all of your jewellery together in a purse or carry-bag. Wearing jewellery while sleeping may cause the items to be crushed or damaged as body weight is pressed down upon them. Bunching jewellery together in a jewellery bag inevitably leads to the diamonds (the hardest stones) and the gold settings scratching against the Opal.
To adequately protect your precious jewellery make sure that you individually wrap your gems in soft cloth and store in a secure location. They can be stored in a safe but make sure that there is moisture in the air. Opals have a 6–10 % water content and (like many other gems) will “dry out” and form cracks if they are subjected to extended dry storage. If you need to store your opal away for a period of time, simply place it in a padded cloth bag for protection and store it away. For longer storage periods, place your opal in cotton wool with a few drops of water, then into a sealed plastic bag just to be safe. The water is not intended to soak into the stone (even though microscopic molecules may) but if it is exposed to very low humidity environments (for example, zero humidity storage safes) it will provide the much needed ambient moisture.
This is the reason why you will often see a small glass of water in the showcase at your jewellery store. This water compensates for the bright hot display-lights heating up the atmosphere and the gemstones, providing ambient moisture in the atmosphere. Placing your Opal in a glass of lukewarm water for 15 minutes every 12 months will prevent it from drying out especially if the opal has been exposed to very dry conditions.
Opals can be cleaned using professional jewellery cleaners such as an ‘ultrasonic’ however the machines that use caustic chemicals to clean the products must be avoided as these are great for cleaning Gold and Silver but not so good for Opals and other gemstones. Ultrasonic machines, however, can be just as effective using soft, soapy, warm water. The same goes for steam cleaning, these are great to clean Opals in very short 1-2 second bursts, but steam is at ‘boiling point’ temperature and will heat any item very quickly if not monitored closely.
The saying is “Opals love to be worn”. The moisture from the skin and atmosphere as well as natural cleaning from showers using warm water and a soft cloth to remove surface dirt and oil is a good monthly habit for Opal jewellery care. But what Opal jewellery loves the most is to be hand-polished with a soft cloth or chamois. Opals can be polished with a soft toothbrush or a cloth to maintain their finish and even a little toothpaste with water can restore the opal to its original brilliance (toothpaste contains talc which is a light abrasive). There are cleaning agents available to assist with this, however, the best item to use is a professional jewellery polishing cloth. These cloths are impregnated with appropriate cleaning solvents that will never harm, strip or otherwise damage the Opal.
All gemstones will chip, crack or shatter if hit hard enough or heated long enough, this goes for all gems (even diamonds), so common sense care will lengthen the life of your gemstones. Don’t wear them if there is a chance they may get hit with hard objects like when gardening or playing sports. If you do damage your Opal, please contact us first. We have years of experience in repairing every sort of Opal and you would be amazed what can be saved.
We advise also you to insure your gems against damage or loss.
Doublets and triplets have multiple layers, and at Australian Opal Cutters our doublets and triplets have a lifetime guarantee against de-laminating. “Delamination” is when the layers of Opal separate due to water penetration dissolving the glues. Prior to 1970 this was a very real issue and Opals were known to “turn white” as the Opal layers separated and the crystal (now separated from the Black Opal “potch” base), revealed it’s true colour as a ‘white’ or ‘crystal’ colour or tone. Post 1970 silicon based glues became available. These are the same adhesives that have been used on space shuttle missions. These glues are silicon based so, when applied to the Opal, have the same “co-efficient of expansion”. This means that the Opal and the glue will expand and contract at the same rate in cold or heat. For this reason Australian Opals can guarantee that an Opal Doublet or Triplet will never delaminate! We have tested Doublets and Triplets by submerging them in water for up to 12 months with absolutely no delamination!
By the way, if you have ever heard the myth that Opals are unlucky, we just thought you should know that it is alleged that this was invented by the diamond industry (as Opals were once the engagement ring of choice). For more information see "The Diamond Invention".
Opal is the Lucky Gem from the Lucky Country!
How To Care For Pearls
Pearls are organic gemstones that are vulnerable to acid, alkaline and extreme humidity. To preserve your pearls radiance, avoid letting them come into contact with cosmetics, hair spray, or perfume. The saying “last thing on and first thing off” was possibly more relevant in the 1950’s when pearl layers could delaminate if affected by harsh chemicals. Today pearl seeding and farming methods have advanced so much that pearl “skins” are much more resilient than they once were. Regardless, to be safe, always put on your pearl jewellery on as the “final touch”, after applying make-up, perfumes and styling hair. The pearl's lustre can appear affected by perspiration, however this is usually surface oils. Before returning your pearls to the jewellery box, wipe them gently with a soft cloth and you will restore them to a pristine condition.
Pearls are exceptionally cohesive and shock-resistant, but may be scratched by contact with sharp objects or other gemstones. To prevent tangles and scratches, fasten clasps and pins, then lay each item out separately in a compartmentalized jewellery cloth prior to storing in your jewellery box. When carrying jewellery, use a protective jewellery pouch. Leaving pearl jewellery in a security box for long periods may cause pearls to dehydrate, so enjoy them frequently. There is a saying that "pearls want to be worn," and it is true!
Even with the best of care, small parts of jewellery may come loose. Ensure that your strands are “double-knotted” so that, in the event of a break your pearls will not scatter everywhere. Before wearing, carefully check such parts as the prongs that support pendants or that the posts are not loosening. Check the clasps on necklaces; make sure that they are tightly knotted, not frayed and not about to come loose. Check the screws of earrings and brooch pins. Mikimoto cultured pearl necklaces are strung with the finest silk thread for both strength and beauty. However, if that string stretches or loosens, it may break suddenly. Even if you don't wear your pearls often, we recommend that you have your pearls restrung every few years.
It is quite safe to wear pearl strands in water or wear them while bathing, however with all jewellery worn in surf or lakes if it falls off you will be in trouble!. It's also best to avoid high temperatures such as in a sauna. If pearls come into contact with substances such as vinegar, fruit juices, or detergents, immediately wipe clean with a soft cloth. Following these simple guidelines should preserve your Mikimoto pearls for generations.
If the radiance of your jewelry appears to be diminishing, take it to a specialist. Ultrasonic cleanser should never be used with pearl jewellery as it can damage the pearls. Ultrasonics usually use a caustic soda based cleaning agent and this is very detrimental to the pearls skin and lustre.
Never steam-clean pearls. Never use (or expose pearls) to dish or wash detergents, bleaches, powdered cleansers, baking soda, or ammonia-based cleaners (like Windex). Never use toothbrushes, scouring pads or abrasive materials to clean pearls.
After you wear pearls, just wipe them off with a soft cloth or chamois, which may be dry or damp. This will prevent dirt from accumulating and keep perspiration, which is slightly acidic, from eating away at the pearl nacre. You can even use a drop talcum powder on the cloth to help maintain the luster.
If pearls have not been kept clean and are very dirty, they can be cleaned by your jeweller or they can be cleaned using a special pearl polishing cloth. Be careful using other types of Jewellery cleaner or soap. Some liquid soaps, such as Dawn, can damage pearls. Pay attention to the areas around the drill holes where dirt may tend to collect.
After washing your pearls, lay them flat in a moist kitchen towel to dry. When the towel is dry, your pearls should be dry.
Remember that with all jewellery, the common sense approach is best. You will be amazed at how careful, detailed hand polishing with a soft cloth will polish most jewellery items. If you do need your pearls professionally cleaned, re-strung or re-valued please contact us.