I first heard of opals when I visited Melbourne back in 2010. I’ve always been a fan of gemstones and crystals but I don’t own jewelry of that kind until recently.
A few weeks ago, I came across a sale at Rochi’s Opals (168 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000) and I couldn’t help but step inside to see if there’s anything that catches my eye. Although I don’t look for specific types of jewelry, I tend to gravitate towards rings. I think it’s the perfect jewelry to wear no matter the season as bangles and necklaces are usually covered up by turtleneck knits, scarves and jackets.
Most of the rings available at Rochi’s are simple and dainty (see above), which is perfect for the minimalist but they also look common. I like unique jewelry (and clothing and decorations) that speaks to my personal style and what’s not to love when most people don’t own what you have? I’m currently in a phase where all chunky and non symmetrical pieces appeal to me and I hope to eventually build a collection of jewelry that I adore and would wear for years to come.
Do you know much about opals? If not, I got you covered. Opal is a gemstone found mainly in Australia and it’s one of only six types of precious gemstones – alongside diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and pearls – found on planet earth.
Myth: Opals are bad luck.
Fact: The ‘bad luck’ myth is the result of centuries of misinformation, superstition, wives’ tales, and jealous diamond traders spreading rumours. Opal has also been considered a good luck talisman and lucky charm throughout the ages, and has been prized by many civilisations. Find out more about the ‘bad luck’ opal myth.
The two main variety of opal are precious opal and common opal. The former presents a pseudo chromatic optical effect and is considerably rare while the latter is dull and valueless. About 95% of all opal mined is common (they’re usually white, grey, black) and of the 5% that has some color, only 0.25% has value while the rest is of mediocre grade.
Myth: Opals are extremely fragile and will break very easily.
Fact: It’s true that opals are more fragile than most gemstones, however they’re not as fragile as some people imagine. Opals are about the same hardness as glass, so imagine you’re wearing a piece of glass and you’ll get the idea. Boulder opals and opals with a low cabochon are sturdier and less easy to damage.
The value of opal depends on a range of factors such as body tone, brilliance and pattern. Body tone refers to the underlying color of the opal which can differ from black through to dark and light. Those with black or dark body tone are deemed more valuable than white or light body tone because the former tends to display colors more vibrantly. Precious opals are also more likely to display a spectrum of color when light passes through the tiny silica spheres in the micro-structure of the opal.
If you’re thinking of getting opal jewelry, educate yourself on how to care for them. First, identify the type of opal you have. Is it a doublet, triplet or a solid opal?
- Doublet: Has two layers, a thin slice of opal and a black backing.
- Triplet: Similar to doublet but has a third transparent layer on top (quartz or glass) to protect the opal.
- Solid: It’s in its natural state and has been cut and polished.
Opal is only as hard as glass, so if there’s a chance it’ll be scratched or broken, remove the jewelry beforehand. To keep your opals looking pristine, take note of the following:
- Doublets and triplets: Avoid prolonged exposure to water as layers in the opal will be lifted, resulting in a ‘foggy’ or grey appearance. Clean doublets and triplets with a damp soft cloth and mild detergent. Never soak or immerse them!
- Solid: Unlike doublets and triples, solid opals are fine in water. However, since most precious opals have 5 – 6% water, they may crack if subjected to very dry conditions or rapid temperature changes. Avoid very high temperatures or low humidity extremes (Do you work for the bank? Watch out for zero humidity bank vaults).
In the end, I didn’t purchase any rings from Rochi’s Opals but I did get two gold necklaces with little blue-green opals on them. Now I just got to wait for the right time to wear them.
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