Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Broken stone during setting


#1

Well, I’m kicking myself today. Hubby bought me a large boulder opal
cab and two smaller ones (all solid) at a trade show last year for
my Valentine’s day present. Last week I decided it was time to make
them into something and so I made a sterling silver and gold pendant
and set the blue boulder opal with lab tanzanite. I made earrings to
go with it too and was setting the earrings today, when I broke one
of the opals! I’m gutted.

Let’s hope I’ve learned my lesson this time. You see, I’m too heavy-
handed sometimes. You know how you can make the settings to fit the
stones beautifully, but by the time you’ve soldered the settings
onto other bits of metal, they can sometimes be a bit tight - perhaps
a bit of solder has flowed inside the bezel somewhere? This was the
case today. As soon as I discovered that the opal no longer fitted
nicely into its setting, I should have taken some action to ease the
setting - but no, I did something that works with harder stones on
most occasions. I placed a folded paper towel over the stone and
gently persuaded it with my setting tool and chasing hammer and of
course it broke. It broke right across the middle and most of the
layer of colour parted company with the ironstone underneath. I’m SO
cross with myself and it was just my impatience. I should have known
not to temp fate with opals as they are so delicate.

We’re going to the same trade show tomorrow, so I’ll be on the
lookout for another pair for my earrings.

Helen - who needs to learn some patience and not just hope for the
best.

UK


#2

Helen,

This gives you the perfect opportunity to be creative. Look carefully
at the halves of your stone, and visualize perhaps a line of silver
or gold separating the two, making them whole again. There are so
many possibilities, perhaps a decorative silver or gold design across
the break. Think of inlaying or channeling. do not give up on this. I
did exactly that on Friday, and simply put it aside for a day when I
can once again look at it and free flow imagination. I have broken a
number of stones over the years, and some far too beautiful to
discard. Usually worked out in a far more interesting manner.

Hugs,
Terrie


#3

Hey Helen,

Terrie has a point there. Maybe not a final solution for your
earrings, since you’d have to break the other one too to make them
match, but something to consider for later for another piece. You’ll
have to put it away for a bit first, though, to distance yourself
from the pain of wrecking the stone. I had something similar to that
happen several years ago, and I was reminded of it just the other
day as I was sorting through my stones (clearing out ones I figure
I’ll never use, reorganizing the rest). Back when I was in Pforzheim,
so this was more than 7 years ago (since it’s before Henry was born),
I was making a difficult setting for a really pretty triangular moss
agate cab. Lovely stone with just the right balance of copper and
green colored stuff floating in a sea of clear. I’d even stitched a
seed bead chain for it to hang on, in a bead color that just matched
the coppery things in the stone. The setting had taken a lot of
work, and I was almost done with it. I put the stone it to test how
it looked, whether it hung evenly on the chain, and then went about
tweaking the hooks in the back just a bit. After soldering it went
into the quench cup and then I saw something fall away from the
setting. AAGHH!!! I hadn’t taken the stone out! I’d turned it over
to look at the back, then forgot to turn it back around & notice that
the stone was still in there before I started resoldering. The stone
clouded up and cracked into two pieces. It clouded up evenly, and
the crack was very tidy, I could put it back together & you’d
couldn’t see the crack unless you held it in the light just right. I
couldn’t make it to sell like that, though. I didn’t throw it out,
but I couldn’t use it as planned. I was heartbroken, angry,
frustrated, etc. The setting was custom for that stone, so I couldn’t
just grab another triangular cab for it. In my enameling class I
tried to make a triangular enameled piece to go into the setting
instead, using the same basic copper and green colors, since I’d
already made a chain for it in that copper color. Problem was,
everything I did looked like a slice of pizza! Agh! In the end, I
trashed the setting I made because I just couldn’t seem to make
anything new for it (yeah, I probably should have kept it, you never
know, but I was very angry with it at that point). I made a new
marquis shaped pendant and enameled it, again in that coppery color,
and was very pleased with the resulting necklace. I came across the
stone some time later and realized that after the pain had passed it
was actually kind of a cool stone in its own right, even if it wasn’t
the same clear pretty thing it had been. Some day I’ll come up with a
new use for it. Some day…

Lisa
Designs by Lisa Gallagher
www.lisagallagher.com


#4

I once did that and then I cut thru the stone and glued a gold strip
in it before re-polishing. Looked like I planned it that way!!!


#5

Dear Terrie, Lisa and Ken,

I wish your suggestion was possible. However, as I said, the colour
vein/layer pretty much completely parted company with the ironstone
layer on one of the stones (and yes they were solid boulder opals.
The seller I bought from does not deal in doublets or triplets - I
was just too heavy-handed) - there’s nothing salvageable I’m afraid.
It’s a shame, as they were such a beautiful pair of stones.
Unfortunately, I ran out of funds at the trade show and so couldn’t
afford to replace them. Maybe next time.

Thanks though.
Helen
UK


#6

Not to start a long debate but there are boulder opal doublets which
are not as easily recognized as the more traditional doublet.

the colour vein/layer pretty much completely parted company with
the ironstone layer on one of the stones (and yes they were solid
boulder opals. 

Helen, your statement pretty much assures that you had a doublet.
Opal does not form in a manner that the color layer would separate
as you describe. The color in boulder opal is distributed in a random
manner.

A fairly convincing way to distinguish a doublet is to look at the
side of the stone; if you see a straight line of demarcation it’s a
doublet.

Making ‘boulder’ opal doublets is a recent phenomena. It’s also
unlikely that what you had was a boulder opal. Boulder opal does not
form in such a way to allow it to be used in the making of a
doublet.

A stone that has a deep brown matrix is not necessarily a boulder
opal. There are a number of stones from Queensland Aus. that fit your
general description. There are about 90 to 100 types of opal in
Australia that can be distinguished one from another.

Having said all that the only certain way to identify the stone you
refer to is to see it live.

KPK


#7

In my career as a cutter rough material has become increasingly
difficult to find.

Tucson AZ has what is reputed to be the largest ‘gem’ show in the
world at this time of the year. There is quantities of rough stone
for sale at Tucson; but I can think of only two people who sell QLD
rough and the quality is pretty low.

When I first started cutting ‘matrix’ thirty years ago some Aussies
saw what i had and said “We throw that cr*p away at home”. I bought
material at that time for $20 US/lb. Within a couple of years dealers
wanted $1200/lb. I cut the material ‘ironstone matrix’ in a way that
was not done before. The Aussies liked the look of it and the prices
went up.

The previous ‘war story’ is meant to illustrate why material is
manipulated more and more in various ways.

"cui bono"
KPK


#8
Making 'boulder' opal doublets is a recent phenomena 

Not so. I began to run into them as long as 15 years ago or more.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
www.spirerjewelers.com


#9

I have to disagree with the fellow about the opal separating from
the iron stone. I have seen this phenomenon many times. The obvious
way to tell whether this was a doublet or not is if it separated
absolutely flat. If the two pieces did that, then there’s s good
chance it’s a doublet. Also even after separation, if it’s a doublet
some glue would remain on either the opal or the ironstone and would
be a lot softer than the stone so that it would scratch easily with a
knife.

Often however with boulder, the opal will do a concoidial fracture
meaning cupped and more or less shell like. I believe this tends to
happen with older stones that have been out of the ground longer, but
that’s only an observation rather than the product of systematic
experimentation. Frequently also this will have a layer of rather
dull and ochreish potch where the ironstone and opal separated.

For the person who asked the original question, I have a fair amount
of boulder opal, but opal is notoriously difficult to match for
color, size and pattern. However if you want to forward me a photo of
the remaining opal with specs, I can take a look.

Derek Levin


#10
Not so. I began to run into them as long as 15 years ago or more. 

I think that it has been longer than that. I think that the use of
the words “boulder opal” to describe these doublets has changed the
meaning of the term. I can not tell you how many dealers of this
material have been calling it “boulder opal”. Because of the cushion
of colored glue between the opal and matrix, I gave up setting this
stuff long ago and have used glue almost exclusively. It is really
the only opal that I won’t hammer set.

Bruce Holmgrain
JACMBJ


#11

Daniel, Bruce, Derek -

The difficulties in discussing 'Helen’s stone" is that we have not
seen the stone ‘live’. It’s similar to the story of the blind men
examining an elephant.

There is more misabout QLD opal (opal in matrix) than
any other material. It is more often misidentified because different
varieties can look very similar.

This reply is not to deny the truthfulness of what has been posted.
It’s just that this discussion is entirely hypothetical, none of us
having seen the stone.

Not to speak from a position of authority, but I’ve never seen an
example of what Derek describes. I’ve been cutting ‘matrix’ since
1976 and cut more than most single individuals; but anything is
possible in the world of opal. There’s always something one has not
seen before which makes it so interesting beyond it’s beauty.

KPK


#12

Hi Kevin,

your statement pretty much assures that you had a doublet. 

I knew as soon as I said that, that someone would assume it was a
doublet, which is why I pointed out that to my knowledge, it isn’t.
What I mean is that SOME of the colour has parted company, rather
than the stone just splitting in two. In other words, it is not
suitable for the strip of silver along the crack treatment. There is
some colour still there but it just looks badly damaged and not
useable.

A fairly convincing way to distinguish a doublet is to look at the
side of the stone; if you see a straight line of demarcation it's
a doublet. 

As well as the line of demarcation, there was a vertical vein of
colour going right from the top of the opal to the bottom of the
ironstone. That doesn’t sound like a doublet to me. Unless of course,
there are some very clever people constructing doublets with vertical
veins of colour as well, so as to convince and deceive buyers. I
understand you thinking it’s a doublet and I suppose when all is said
and done, it could still be a doublet. However, the Australian dealer
I bought it from, built his business on the ideal that he does not
deal in doublets or triplets - only solid material - and so I can
only go on his assurance that what I have is a solid opal.

To Derek,

The obvious way to tell whether this was a doublet or not is if it
separated absolutely flat. 

My original post was somewhat misleading in that I said the colour
layer had parted company from the ironstone. I didn’t mean
completely, but rather too much to make use of the stone. There are
still patches of colour.

Often however with boulder, the opal will do a concoidial fracture
meaning cupped and more or less shell like. 

This happened too, at the tip of the one I have left!

Frequently also this will have a layer of rather dull and ochreish
potch where the ironstone and opal separated. 

Yes, this exactly describes the layer between the colour and the
ironstone.

However if you want to forward me a photo of the remaining opal
with specs, I can take a look. 

Thanks very much for the kind offer. I’ll try to get a photo of it
in the next couple of days.

To all who have responded, thanks, and I will post a photo as soon
as I’ve had time to capture one.

Helen
UK


#13

Kevin Patrick Kelly, for those of you who haven’t seen his work, is
the best cutter/polisher of matrix opal I’ve ever been lucky enough
to come across! I get beautiful material from a lot of
cutters/dealers, but Kevin’s eye and finish are beyond compare.
Perhaps it’s because Kevin isn’t cutting “for the trade” (as far as
I know), but each is cut to present in his own jewelry which he then,
literally, stands behind at retail shows. On rare occasions he has
allowed me to buy one of his stunning stones to incorporate in my
work, much to my real delight! So, when Kevin speaks on opal…take
his word for it! He is a gentleman, his integrity is beyond reproach
and he is a true opal nut! ( and no, Lynn, nothing to worry about…
I don’t have eyes on your husband, just his opals!) Opal nut myself,
Marianne

Marianne Hunter
http://www.hunter-studios.com


#14
As well as the line of demarcation, there was a vertical vein of
colour going right from the top of the opal to the bottom of the
ironstone. That doesn't sound like a doublet to me. 

You totally miss the point of 'line of demarcation. It’s hazardous to
make statements about a stone that’s not in front of one. And if your
description had been accurate all these posts would have been
unnecessary.

KPK


#15
Kevin Patrick Kelly, for those of you who haven't seen his work,
is the best cutter/polisher of matrix opal I've ever been lucky
enough to come across! 

Marianne beat me to it…There are people in the world who know
more about opal than Kevin, mostly in Australia. For most of us, and
certainly here on Orchid, he qualifies as our resident expert. Much
knowlege, much experience, and pretty deeply immersed in the opal
trade, too. Listen to him.

All of the “opal matrix” I’ve ever seen was an opal seam or seams
cut with the ironstone backing behind it, and natural opal on top.
I’ve never heard anybody call such a thing a doublet, till
now…Doublets are obvious, but I’m not an opal expert, either…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#16
All of the "opal matrix" I've ever seen was an opal seam or seams
cut with the ironstone backing behind it, and natural opal on top.
I've never heard anybody call such a thing a doublet, till now.. 

This describes my stones - opal seam cut with the ironstone backing
behind it.

Doublets are obvious, but I’m not an opal expert, either…

I agree, doublets ARE obvious. Many times, I have been able to spot
an opal doublet just from a photograph. The quartz (or whatever)
layer on the top has a distinctly different appearance to real opal.
As I pointed out, one of my opals had a vein of colour going
vertically through the stone as well as horizontally across the top
of the stone so it certainly did not speak doublet to me.

Kevin - who I do respect greatly - says I’ve not been accurate in my
description. If you read my original post on the subject, when I
said “It broke right across the middle and most of the layer of
colour parted company with the ironstone underneath”, that still
pretty much describes what happened. I don’t think that was
misleading at all. If one assumes it’s a doublet, then you would read
what I wrote, thinking that the quartz topping and thin opal layer
completely split from the backing - it’s all a matter of
interpretation. But what I said can equally apply to natural boulder
opal (or matrix as you call it). The opal layer is clearly a
different substance to the ironstone it sits upon, and can thus
behave differently when under stress. Therefore, when I was careless,
some of the opal layer did indeed part company with its backing and
some remained, but it is a mess and not salvageable - but that does
NOT mean that it is a doublet. And I must point out that it wasn’t a
cry for help - it was merely a rant on my part, as I was cross with
myself for breaking my stone. People answered, offering suggestions
as to how I could possibly use the stone and it then became necessary
to qualify exactly what damage I’d done. I have not tried to mislead
anybody. I always attempt to describe things clearly.

I do appreciate everyone’s suggestions, and a couple of people have
asked for photographs which I will try to capture as soon as I can.

I hope this clears up what I have been trying to say.

Helen
UK


#17
Many times, I have been able to spot an opal doublet just from a
photograph. The quartz (or whatever) layer on the top has a
distinctly different appearance to real opal.

Interesting that someone can tell a doublet from a photo. An opal
with quart on top is usually a triplet and doublets are usually opal
on top with backing beneath.

I might not be able to tell a doublet from a photo and I have
hundreds of opals, doublets and solid opals. I have Mexican jelly
opal, Ethiopian, Brazilian, Australian crystal, black, boulder,Yowah,
Koroit, Winton matrix, and Oregon opal.

Doublets with opal on top and a backing of ironstone can be made with
a bonding material that is the same color as the ironstone or
ironstone is crushed and mixed with the glue so the back of the opal
can be an irregular surface and the seam where the opal and the
ironstone meet is hard to discern.

One could laminate a piece of opal with ironstone on both sides and
it would be difficult to detect.

Opticon can be (is) used to fill fractures and divots in opals. A
fractured opal treated with opticon might separate when pressure is
applied while setting.

I am with Kevin, without a picture all is speculation. With a photo
those of us with years of experience might be able to tell if a
doublet de-laminated or if the opal fractured. When setting opal
there is a distinct sound when an opal is broken. I do not usually
hear it when there is a small chip while setting.

The same quality of boulder opal that is a $30 doublet can be $300
when it is a solid opal.

One of the most beautiful opals I ever had the pleasure of owning was
a crystal opal with vivid neon blue and green that rolled around as
you moved the stone around. It was a doublet with a black base that
provided the backround that made the color stand out. I do not think
the colors would have been as dramatic without the black backround.

Richard Hart G.G.
Jewelers Gallery
Denver, Co.


#18

Dear Richard,

An opal with quart on top is usually a triplet and doublets are
usually opal on top with backing beneath. 

I actually meant to say triplet. Perhaps the ones in the photographs
I’m talking about were so bad that the quartz layer on the top of
the triplet was so obvious, and believe me, they were obvious. I’m
100% sure there are plenty of doublets and triplets out there that I
would not be able to tell apart from solid.

I am with Kevin, without a picture all is speculation. With a
photo those of us with years of experience might be able to tell if
a doublet de-laminated or if the opal fractured. 

I know I don’t have years of experience with opal and as I said to
Kevin, he may well be right - it may be a doublet boulder opal alter
all - but I was only going on what the dealer told me - that he
doesn’t deal in doublets or triplets. Maybe I’m too trusting. But I
also pointed out that there was a vertical vein of colour going
right through one of the stones from top to bottom, front to back, as
well as the horizontal layer of colour that the stone was cut to show
off and I still stand by my opinion that that probably means it is
solid after all. Nobody has commented on that though. The stone is
now set so I can’t take pictures to show you but you’ll have to take
my word for it.

Anyway, my original post was just a rant on my part and not
something that was supposed to incur strong opinion on whether or not
my opals were solid.

Helen
UK