Fact or Fiction? Opal Myths and Misconceptions

There are many myths about opals, and customers often ask me about them.  Here are a few of the most common myths we hear. Maybe you have heard them too!

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Opals need to be conditioned with oils or lotions.

This is a myth! Opals don't need to be treated with oil to keep them looking their best. Customers often tell me that their grandmothers told them to rub opal rings on their noses or foreheads, because the oil from their skin would help protect the opal. Another customer recently told me that she heard that opals should be rubbed with skin lotion. These are all myths! When an Australian opal is polished, it is sealed.  Adding oils or lotions will not add life to your opal.

Applying oil or lotion to Ethiopian opal will actually absorb into the stone and discolor the opal and very often this cannot be reversed!

Opals can be bad luck.

Opal is the birthstone for October, so many customers have come to believe in the superstition that it is bad luck to own an opal when you are not born in October.  I have also heard that it is bad luck to buy an opal for yourself.  No matter when you are born or who buys the opal, the way I look at it, it is that opals were created by God for our enjoyment; to admire their beauty and the wonder of His creation.

I can't wear my opal in cold weather.

Being located in Wisconsin, where the winter temperatures can dip below 0°, we hear many customers express their concern for wearing opals out in the cold.  Opal's sensitivity to cold is severely exaggerated, Australian opals can be left in the freezer for a week and come out fine.  However, exposing your opal to extreme fluctuations between hot and cold may cause cracking, which is very similar to glass.

Opals need to be stored in water to prevent cracking.

This myth may have originated from the fact that wetting a cracked stone will hide the defects temporarily.  Australian Opal is actually non-porous, meaning nothing can get into the stone, hence, adding water to it will effectively do nothing for your stone.  The exception being Ethiopian opal, which is hydrophane and will absorb liquids, so it is best not to submerge the opal for any length of time. 

A common use for water with opals is that there is actually a film on the rough opal that hides the color, so Dennis keeps rough opal in a plastic bag with water, which allows you to see the colors versus when they are dry.  Once opal is cut and polished, the shine and color is much more noticeable without having to wet the opal

That's a fire opal right?

Several people call an opal "fire opal" if there is red color in the opal, but the only opal that technically goes by that name is Mexican Fire Opal.  This type of opal typically has a red or red-orange base color and can be found with red/green play of color.  Some Mexican opal forms a more translucent, or crystal, structure with a wider range of color play.

Opals are very fragile.

There are many customers, and visitors, that tell us that opals are a very fragile stone because that's what they have been told by several sources.  Yes, opal is more fragile than most gemstones but it is not as fragile as people think.  Opal is roughly the same hardness as glass, coming in between 5.5 and 6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale; turquoise is comparable at 5 to 6 on the hardness scale. 

The Opal Man never sleeps.

Yes, that is the store light on at 2a.m. and The Opal Man, Dennis, is hard at work on making some amazing new opal pieces.  It's times like this that make people think that The Opal Man does not sleep.  What you don't see is him taking a quick cat nap in his chair between sessions on the stone cutting wheel.

The next time you are in, make sure to say "hello" to the man that sometimes sleeps.