Save my opal
March 20, 2011 7:09 PM   Subscribe

My late grandmother's beautiful white opal ring seems to have a little chunk gouged out in the middle. Any way to repair it?

I can feel and see an indentation from the gouge. My grandmother used to wear this a lot back in the day, from what I remember, and the damage is probably due to wear, as opals are pretty delicate and soft. Is there anything I or a jeweller could do to repair and/or prevent further damage?
posted by pised to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe an optically clear UV cured glue/filler could be used.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:40 PM on March 20, 2011

I would try smoothing and then polishing the stone with one of those four sided buffers that manicurists use to polish gel nails, very fine abrasive with foam cushioning emery-boards.
posted by hortense at 7:50 PM on March 20, 2011

I don't think you should do it yourself, especially if it's an heirloom. A jeweller should be able to buff it and repolish it, depending on the depth and location of the gouge.
posted by amyms at 7:54 PM on March 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

A lapidary who has experience with opals is who you need to find. Opals are very finicky stones.
posted by pajamazon at 8:20 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I meant to add that you don't want just anyone to work on the stone because improper handling can destroy it. it's important that the exact structure of the stone is determined before any attempts at repair are made. For instance, the surface of the stone might actually not be opal, but a layer of quartz, which could be reground. But if the surface is actually opal, you can grind right through the shimmery layer of fire in half a heartbeat leaving you with a hunk of junk. So, please consult someone who knows opals!
posted by pajamazon at 8:30 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do not do anything to the stone yourself. Do not take an emery board to it or fill it. Find a reputable local jeweler that is equipped to do on-site manufacturing and repair. They'll consult with you on options for no charge.

If the damage is shallow enough, a stonecutter may be able to minimize or take it away. This will almost certainly involve removing mass from the stone, though it may be that there is a non-obvious filler that could be used (I know jewelry repair, but not so much lapidary work).
posted by middleclasstool at 8:47 PM on March 20, 2011

Thank you for the advice so far! Would anyone know of a reputable lapidary expert in opals in Toronto or southwestern Ontario?
posted by pised at 9:36 PM on March 20, 2011


Simply, Opals are comprised of silica spheres and a percentage of water. They often in their formation have a fine network of little cracks (like crazing, but all through) and they're oiled to enhance their refraction and to provide stability and shouldn't be subjected to chemicals, vibrations, extreme temperatures or blows. It's lucky if it's just a chip, and no further damage. So, please don't try anything yourself! middleclasstool is very right in that someone who understands opals should work with it.

Often opal doublets (or triplets) in old rings fare better, because as pajamazon said, there can be a layer of glass or crystal on top, then a thin layer of opal (in a triplet, a layer of darker material beneath that).

All that said, having been a jeweller for years here in Toronto, I'd suggest that you contact Ulrich Dehez (Ulli) who's currently at Made You Look. Every high-end jeweller I know worked with him via Platinum Unlimited at some point (I did at when Birks and Cynthia Findlay, to name two - as well as many of the other antique dealers whom I served when at a local auction house). While he wouldn't necessarily work on your stone personally, he's connected with a network of other people in the trade, and would know, as much or more than anyone, who would be best to repair your stone. He is great with antique jewellery. He was the maker of our wedding bands, and his partner at Pure Brilliance, Alexandra Watson Mendis, was an appraiser at a reputable business and is also familiar with most of the trade in Toronto.

There are places that claim to be able to repair or stabilize opals with polymers (Opticon), or the same stuff used in windshield repair. Sometimes they don't have the same refraction as the opal, but if it's important to have the same stone, its an option. I haven't worked in jewellery lately, and have never seen any repaired with this myself.

Since opals tend to get damaged easily anyway, if the chip is barely there, you might just want to wear the heck out of it and enjoy it as it is, then repair or replace it when it's really needed. And if it can't be repaired, and the stone needs replacing, it's very possible that Uli can help to bring in a selection for you to choose from. White opals aren't hugely expensive stones, and you might find one that you like even more, if it's the ring and the sentiment that's important more than just the stone. Either way, an opinion or quote on it is usually not something that's at a cost to you, so you may as well bring it by.
posted by peagood at 8:09 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh - sorry - it's Uli, not Ulli and there are other typos. I'm on an unfamiliar keyboard today, and need to run. MeMail me if you need to know anything else!
posted by peagood at 8:11 AM on March 21, 2011

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