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Boulder Opal Polish


#1
    Is there a way that I can re-finish the surface of the opal,
easily and gently w/wo removing it from the bezel setting. Thanks,
in advance, for all help. 

There is a way to re-polish the entire face of the stone, right up
to the bezel, but unless you have lots of lapidary experience I
strongly recommend that you find someone with the know-how to do the
job. The technique is too involved to explain here. Much depends on
the type of opal in question, the kind of ironstone matrix, the
location and depth of the scratches, etc. There is no single kind of
opal classified as “boulder opal.” It comes from a number of
locations in Australia and while certain characteristics are shared,
each kind has its own “personality” and handling tricks. The matrix
on some is very hard and takes a fantastic polish; other matrix can
be porous, even somewhat crumbly. The depth of the opal can be a
very thin film to a millimeter or so. Removing deep scratches might
alter the opal’s appearance in some cases. I would urge you NOT to
try to remove a boulder opal using a blade between the stone and
bezel, especially if the stone is valuable. Depending on how the
piece is constructed, it might be a better idea to use a slitting
disk or file to remove the bezel wire, cutting carefully along the
base plate until the stone can be removed. It’s a much better idea
to rebuild the bezel than to risk damaging the stone. Even an
inexpensive boulder opal, if broken, will be hard to replace with an
identical shape so you’ll probably end up re-bezeling anyway. I’d
be happy to take a look at it and let you know if I think a re-polish
in the setting would be the way to go. Email me direct with a jpeg.
The cost for a job like that wouldn’t be a lot, but there’s postage
and insurance to think of.

Rick Martin
MARTIN DESIGNS


#2
 I would urge you NOT to try to remove a boulder opal using a blade
between the stone and bezel, especially if the stone is valuable. 

Rick this is great advise. When I was suggesting using a blade to
remove an opal from a setting, I was not thinking of boulder. It is
much to fragile to attempt this as you pointed out. Even with a
solid opal, great care must be used to prevent applying any pleasure
on the stone. One more consideration comes to mind now, was the
stone epoxy set? I sometimes would use a thin layer of epoxy under
an opal to provide a bed for the opal to set in and guard from an
uneven bezel plate. Once you get the bezel opened or removed, see
if the stone is loose. If it doesn’t move easily, then it is a good
idea to soak the piece in attack or MEK for a day to loosen up the
adhesive. Be aware though that if the stone is very thin, the
swelling of the epoxy can fracture it.

Don


#3
  When I was suggesting using a blade to remove an opal from a
setting, I was not thinking of boulder. 

This is a near certain path to disaster for ANY opal, not just
boulder. The slightest uneven pressure or twist of the blade will
crack or chip the stone. If you want to salvage any bezeled opal, saw
or otherwise cut the bezel wire off along the base plate – very
carefully. The customer should be warned that many problems may be
encountered in this kind of job because…

…some people use epoxy in bezels. I think this is one of the
worst practices in jewelry-making. Either the bezel should be built
to conform to the base of the opal, or the opal should be modified to
fit the base. The only compromise I would even think of making is the
occasional use of a layer or two of the thin plastic foam that’s used
in shipping. I don’t know the name of the stuff but it’s about half
a millimeter thick. It cushions against slight irregularities and
also adds a little upward “spring” to the stone so it can’t rattle in
the bezel. I never use it in gold items and only rarely in silver
except for inexpensive turquoise pieces. Epoxying stones is
disrespectful of any person who works on the jewelry in the future
IMO. Even soaking jewelry in solvents can damage certain opals,
especially doublets set with only the precious opal part showing.
And there are a lot more doublets posing as “bouler opals” on the
market than most people suspect. I know a guy who sells them as what
they are, but they’re so expertly made they could easily fool
secondary owners – and innocent repair people.

Rick Martin