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Opal Facts + Myths

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. Avoid heavy manual labour, moving furniture, sport, gardening or any other vigorous activity where your opal might impact with hard surfaces and your opal will enjoy a long and happy life. With a little common sense it’s easy to take care of opals.


Myth: Opals need to be rubbed with oil or glycerin occasionally to prevent cracking.

Fact: Rubbing your opal with oil will do nothing more than make your opal oily  and risk damaging it.  


Myth: Opals are unstable and prone to cracking.

Fact: Most opals are extremely stable and never crack, however some locations produce unstable opals that crack soon after being mined. It's important to source opals from reputable dealers who both mine good material and let the rough sit before selling so any crazing happens before it's processed. By the time the opal travels from the mines, and is processed, cut, polished, and set, any unstable material is usually identified and weeded out.


Myth: Water damages solid opals. Never clean your opal with water or get your opal wet. The opal will expand and crack.

Fact: Partially true. Solid opals cannot be harmed by water, nor do they expand. However, Ethiopian opals do temporarily lose their colour if submerged in water. While the colour does return when left to dry, Australian opal is preferred by those who want to wear their jewellery while bathing, swimming ext. 

While I dont sell them at all, doublet and triplet opals (partially man-made layered stones) can be damaged by exposure to water. Water penetration can eventually cause the glue to deteriorate and the layers to separate, causing the opal to take on a foggy, grey, or cloudy appearance. This fact is the origin of the ‘never get your opal wet’ misconception.


Myth: Taking your opal to high altitudes in a plane will cause it to crack.

High altitudes will not affect your opal. The only major things that can damage your opal are impact or extreme temperature changes (e.g. placing your opal over a flame) or extremely low humidity for long periods. Extreme temperature changes cause the opal to expand and contract, potentially causing cracks or crazing.


Myth: Soaking an opal in rose water will enhance the colour.

Fact: Wetting your opal in any kind of water may make it look better by improving the polish. This is only temporary. The only true way to maximise the colour of a stone is to have it professionally polished. Rose water has no special properties for enhancing opals.


Myth: Opals are bad luck, or it's bad luck to wear an opal if it's not your birthstone (October).

Fact: The ‘bad luck’ myth is the result of centuries of misinformation, superstition, and jealous diamond traders spreading rumours. A novel in which holy water splashed on the opal and caused the wearer to faint and turn to ash popularized the belief opals were back luck (Anne of Geierstein ,1829). Opal has also been considered a good luck talisman, lucky charm and prophecy stone throughout the ages, and has been prized by many civilisations. 


Myth: The light causing the opal’s colours comes from within the stone.

Fact: Opal’s colours are caused by the reflection and diffraction of white light which enters the top of the stone. The light bounces around inside the tiny microscopic silica spheres within the stone, causing the diffraction of light and the ‘prism’ or rainbow effect which we all know and love.


Myth: Warming an opal in your hand will enhance its brightness.

Fact: The heat of an opal has no effect on its display of colour.


Myth: Putting your opal out in a lightning storm will improve the colour.

Fact: Considering the personal danger associated with this, it’s not a very good idea. Lightning has nothing to do with opal colours. This perception may come from the ancient Arabian belief that opals were cast down in lightning storms.