by M. Langton
The opal's reputation as a delicate gemstone makes even experienced jewelry lovers hesitant to clean their opal jewelry. It's important to get the cleaning technique right to avoid scratching or cracking your opal. In addition, doublet and triplet opals require slightly different cleaning techniques than pure opals.
Determine what type of opal you have: Different types of opals require different cleaning methods. To determine what kind of opal you have, look at it from the side. At an angle, you can tell if it is a solid opal or if it's made up of layers. A thin slice of opal glued onto a backing is a doublet opal, while two layers with a clear cap on top is a triplet opal. If layers are not apparent, then you have a pure opal.
Prepare your supplies: Place 1/2 cup of warm water into a small bowl. Be sure the water is just warm, as both hot and cold water can crack opals. Add two or three drops of mild, unscented dish soap and create lather.
Clean and rinse your opal carefully: Cleaning your opal jewelry is simple. Just take care to use the correct process for your type of opal.
Pure opals can be placed directly into the cleaning solution for a few seconds and then swished around to remove any dirt on the surface. You should then carefully rinse it, as soap can dry it out if left on the surface.
Doublet and triplet opals, on the other hand, should be carefully cleaned with a microfiber jewelry cloth that has a bit of the cleaning solution on it. You must rinse them using the same method of wiping with a jewelry cloth.
Dry your opal: A microfiber jewelry cloth or other very soft cloth can then be used to dry the opal. Dry it as thoroughly as possible, as water can be damaging to these gems.
Clean the rest of the piece: Once the opal has been cleaned, you can carefully clean other stones and jewelry parts with a soft toothbrush, avoiding the surface of the opal itself.
Clean opal jewelry, especially rings, once every two months to prevent build up of skin oils and dirt. This will also make each cleaning process easier because less dirt will have accumulated.
If your opal still looks dull after cleaning, it's probably scratched. Take it to a jeweler to have it polished and look into the possibility of repairing scratches and cracks.
Never place opal jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner; the vibrations can crack the stone. In addition, traditional jewelry cleaning solutions can damage opals, so it is important to use the soap-and-water technique instead.