How To Care For Opals

Opals, with their mesmerizing play-of-color and unique beauty, are truly one of nature's most captivating gemstones. To keep opals looking their best, However, in this blog,  we’ll delve into the best practices for opal care, from everyday handling to professional maintenance, providing you with the knowledge to keep your opals looking their best.

Understanding Opals

Opals are unlike any other gemstone, featuring a unique internal structure that diffracts light, creating a kaleidoscope of colors. This phenomenon, known as "play-of-color," gives opals their distinctive appearance.

  1. Composition: Opals are made up of tiny silica spheres arranged in a grid-like pattern. These spheres interact with light to create the stone's signature flashes of color.
  2. Variety: Opals come in various types, including white opals, black opals, boulder opals, and fire opals, each with its unique characteristics and color patterns.

Understanding the Fragility of Opals

Opals are undeniably beautiful and unique gemstones, but their delicate nature requires special attention and care. Unlike harder gemstones such as diamonds or sapphires, opals are more susceptible to damage from everyday wear and environmental factors.

Mohs Hardness Scale

Opals rank between 5.5 and 6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which measures a mineral's resistance to scratching. This places them below many other gemstones in terms of hardness, making them more prone to scratches and abrasions.

For context, diamonds rank a 10 on the Mohs scale, while sapphires and rubies rank a 9. Quartz, which is a common component of everyday dust, ranks a 7. This means that everyday materials can potentially scratch an opal.

Internal Structure

The internal structure of opals, composed of tiny silica spheres bonded with water and silica gel, contributes to their fragility.

  • Porosity: Opals are slightly porous, which makes them susceptible to absorbing liquids and chemicals. This porosity can lead to staining and other forms of damage if the opal is exposed to certain substances.
  • Water Content: The water content in opals (typically 3-21%) can evaporate over time, leading to dehydration and cracking. This is why it’s important to store opals in environments with stable humidity levels.

Common Causes of Damage

Physical Impact

One of the primary causes of damage to opals is physical impact. Due to their lower hardness, opals can chip or crack if they are subjected to a hard blow or dropped onto a hard surface.

Engaging in activities such as sports, gardening, or housework while wearing opal jewelry increases the risk of accidental impacts. It’s best to remove opal jewelry during such activities to prevent damage.

Temperature Changes

Opals are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature, which can cause them to crack or craze (develop a network of fine lines on the surface).

  • Thermal Shock: Exposing opals to extreme heat or cold can lead to thermal shock, where the rapid change in temperature causes the stone to expand or contract, resulting in cracks.
  • Avoiding Extremes: It’s important to avoid exposing opals to high heat sources, such as direct sunlight, ovens, or hot water, as well as freezing temperatures.

Chemical Exposure

Chemicals found in everyday products can damage the surface of opals, causing discoloration and weakening the stone.

  • Household Cleaners: Harsh cleaning agents, bleach, and detergents can all damage opals. Always remove opal jewelry before cleaning or using chemicals.
  • Cosmetics: Perfumes, lotions, and hairsprays can also affect the appearance of opals. Apply these products before putting on your opal jewelry to minimize exposure. A good rule of thumb for opal jewelry is, last on when getting ready of the day, and first off at the end of the day. 

How to Care for Opals

Wearing Your Opal Jewelry

Opals are perfect for special occasions, and with the right precautions, you can enjoy them every day.

  • Avoid Impact: Be mindful of your activities when wearing opal jewelry. Avoid wearing opals during activities that could cause them to be knocked or scratched.
  • Temperature Changes: Opals are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature, which can cause them to crack. Avoid exposing your opal jewelry to extreme heat or cold.

Cleaning Your Opals

Keeping your opals clean is essential to maintain their vibrant play-of-color.

  • Mild Soap and Water: Clean your opals with mild soap and lukewarm water. Use a soft cloth or a brush to gently remove any dirt or debris. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with a soft, lint-free cloth. You can of course, always bring them into Worthmore and we are happy to clean and inspect them (even on pieces not purchased from us.) 
  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Do not use harsh chemicals, bleach, or commercial jewelry cleaners on your opals. These can damage the stone and affect its appearance.

Storing Your Opals

Proper storage of your opal jewelry can help prevent damage and keep it looking its best.

  • Separate Storage: Store opal jewelry separately from other pieces to avoid scratches. Use a soft pouch or a lined jewelry box.
  • Humidity Control: Opals contain water and can dry out over time. Store your opal jewelry in a location with moderate humidity to prevent dehydration. Placing a damp cloth in the storage area can help maintain the necessary moisture.

Professional Care for Opals

Regular Check-Ups

Bring your opal jewelry to Worthmore Jewelers for regular inspections to ensure it remains in excellent condition.

  1. Professional Cleaning: Our expert jewelers can clean your opals using safe, effective methods that preserve their beauty.
  2. Inspection and Maintenance: We will inspect the settings and the stone itself to ensure it is secure and free from damage. Regular maintenance can help prevent minor issues from becoming major problems.

Repair Services

If your opal jewelry does suffer damage, our skilled jewelers can help restore it to its original glory.

  1. Stone Replacement: In the event of severe damage, we can replace the opal with a new, high-quality stone that matches the original.
  2. Setting Repairs: We can repair or replace the settings to ensure your opal is secure and beautifully displayed.


Caring for opals requires a bit of extra attention, but the reward is well worth it. These stunning gemstones bring a unique beauty to any jewelry collection, and with proper care, they can be enjoyed for generations. At Worthmore Jewelers, we are here to help you with all your opal needs, from everyday care tips to professional maintenance and custom designs.

Visit us at Worthmore Jewelers to discover our exquisite collection of opal jewelry and experience our unique approach to jewelry design and customer service. Our friendly and knowledgeable team is ready to assist you in finding the perfect piece or caring for your treasured opals.

For more insights and inspiration, check out our blog, or contact us to schedule an appointment. Join us in breaking tradition and discovering the exceptional care and quality that define Worthmore Jewelers.