First timer creating an opal ring, hopefully not biting off more than I can chew

Buckle in, this is a long one with a lot of prior research and a lot of potential questions :sweat_smile:

So as the title suggests, I’m approaching a project as a newbie to not only rings but jewellery and any sort of metalwork beyond some basic lathe machining/welding/grinding altogether. The ‘design brief’ was “I want an opal engagement ring” a few years ago in passing, when it was far too early in the relationship for me to have paid attention :wink:

Fast forward those years and I’ve been doing the slow burn research to make sure I’ve covered all bases, including a trip to Lightning Ridge to have a crack at finding an opal, and learning as much as possible from the source. During this trip I was made painfully aware that the softness of opal (5.5-6 on mohs) doesn’t make for a great everyday ring, but that’s not enough to deter me. I also learnt a lot about doublets and triplets on this trip, and it got me thinking about innovation/solution #1.

Problem #1 - Opal is soft.
Solution #1 - Cover Opal with something for protection.
I’m looking at this from a slightly different perspective to most doublets/triplets, in that the piece I have is a beautiful cabochon solid, and would absolutely not require any enhancement visually. I am aware that a typical doublet is about backing, not a cap, but as this gem needs no backing I am thinking of a non-traditional opal-and-cap doublet (call it a triplet with no backing if you’d like). Quartz is a common cap and would be OK if my more ambitious idea can’t come together, as it is a slight upgrade at 7 on mohs and would also be able to be replaced every X years without any sacrifice of the opal. The ambitious idea is Moissanite (9.5 on mohs). I have been reaching out to manufacturers that specialise in Moissanite and it’s looking like getting anything like a cabochon is going to be a challenge in itself. When one opal specialist I spoke to started talking through the doublet creation process, we stumbled across technical problem #2.

Problem #2 - Opal has a ‘coefficient of thermal expansion’, CTE ~= 6.44-7.38, and Moissanite is down at 4.0. For the opal specialist, this was enough of a difference to flag concern of delamination over time, and he explained that the difference in CTE from some glass (~9) to opal is one reason cheaper doublets and triplets fail.
Solution #2 - The adhesive used between the opal and cap should be flexible enough to compensate for the difference in CTE.

This problem/solution led me to speaking to adhesives specialists and manufacturers, in the hope that the specs I’ve now got would be able to be matched to a glue. Optically clear, flexible enough to survive many cycles of roughly 5*10^-6mm stretching, and unlikely to succumb to UV or other common adhesive failures. I have so far not had any luck, but I am nowhere near the end of the leads I have.

That’s the current mission for the gem, now for the actual ring! I know it will be a white gold alloy, I know the styles she likes and the design of the ring in CAD is something that IS in my wheelhouse (finally). My research has been clear that I should bezel set the opal for further protection and even pressure. I have dug into forum posts here and concluded that while it may be unnecessary, I like the idea of gluing the base of the opal to reduce risk of pressure points on the underside and to simplify the bezel setting. From a design perspective I am yet to settle on whether there will be other stones included; Separate from the opal I purchased while in Lightning ridge I did find some almost unusably small opal while fossicking that I like the idea of setting rough alongside the main piece.

In conclusion! I guess my post is asking for any insight people with more experience than me may have into any of the small but significant details I will come across in this process. For specific questions:

  • Has anyone laminated/glued two substrates in their jewellery that have similar differences in thermal properties, and how has that gone?
  • Any adhesive suggestions or leads on who to speak to?
  • Any suggestions of jewellers in NSW, Aus who would be worth talking to/working with?
  • Insight into the decision to include or not include extra stones/gems would be great!
  • Any tips from a design perspective to make the lost wax/resin casting process as smooth as possible
  • I’m interested in just about any input, even if for nothing other than a learning exercise! see below for caveat

And finally, input/considerations I’m not looking for :kissing_heart:

  • Suggestions of alternative stones. This is a “how do I make it work” project, not a “how can I work around it”.
  • Suggestions of separate everyday ring and opal ring for special occasions. I want this ring to be a testament to the lengths I would go to for this woman to have the absolute best outcome possible. If any challenges become insurmountable, I can re-evaluate.
  • I’ve heard plenty of cases of people looking after their opals and not needing any or much work to keep them looking nice, but I’m working on a best case scenario of something truly unique that ideally can be treated like any other everyday ring. If it all becomes impossible, I do know that I have many fall back options.
  • I’m aware that delamination is a concern with any substrates and I’m not expecting to reduce the risk to zero, only to do everything I can to hedge my bets.

To those who made it to the end and intend on sharing some of their wisdom, thank you in advance!


I just made my first opal ring (not an every day piece of jewelry). Regretfully, I don’t have any tips to offer you but wanted to commend you on your efforts and wish you the best of luck for success. With your determination, your ring is going to be nothing short extraordinary!

Tammy O

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Hello and welcome to the forum! I am a fairly new user and I can say that there are some amazingly helpful and intelligent people here.

I make rings out of opals regularly. I always bezel set them and roll a little bit of the bezel over the top of the opal to protect the face.

You might look into a picture frame cut for an optically, clear, quartz, or moissanite if you wanted to set a faceted stone over an opal, but that would be quite a construction if you haven’t made much jewelry before.

I would encourage you to make a ring or two using opals that you aren’t massively attached to while you figure out the final design.


I had some other thoughts for you:

In terms of the project, it sounds like it’s (I could be wrong) an expression of your love of figuring things out and learning new skills. I am a lot like that. I LOVE to learn new systems, materials…

But since this is ultimately about your partner and their jewelry, I would throw a leeeetle cold water on you and suggest that the engagement ring you give them is about them and their aesthetic. That might mean buying or making a ring that is different than the one you could/want to make.

I tricked my wife and asked her what type of engagement rings she liked by talking about a “friend” who was getting engaged and showing her some random ring and asking her what she thought. Then we just sorted looking at different styles and I coaxed out of her what she fancied. I NEVER would have guessed.

But now she has EXACTLY what she wants.

Anyways, this is all shared with affection hoping it’s useful in some way.


Glad to hear the research I’d landed on regarding bezel setting holds water, although when you’re talking about rolling a bit of the bezel over the top of the opal, I was under the impression that was bezel setting? Is it more about how much bezel there is? (These are the exact little things I need to learn, thank you!)

I like the sound of the picture frame cut (at least my imagination of it), but I’m having some trouble finding much on it; Is it similar to or the otherwise referred to as a portrait cut gem?

Great thought on some practise rings. I should be able to make a couple of similarly designed (or even the same) rings with other opals which would be good practise to iron out the kinks in the actual ring production too!

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The project is an expression of our shared love languages of gifting and acts of service. I hear your point and it’s not insignificant, but in this case I can assure you I’m not putting my wants or needs ahead of hers. I’m fortunate that my love for learning new things can be a part of this project, but the primary motivator is the commitment of my time and energy to create something for her that (to your point) is exactly what she wants from style through to meaning. Between her friends and my own observation I’m very confident in what she likes, and I’m not going to constrain the ring to my own capability. If the design ends up being out of reach I will absolutely engage a professional, although fortunately (at least at face value) her style seems on the simple side of design, and I don’t have any problem committing the time to getting it right.

This is a boutique she has saved and I don’t even believe she’s aware I found it. These designs align with the styles she shows her friends when shopping together, and while I am fully aware that the creator of those rings is an artist, I believe I can capture what she likes using the tools and skill available to me. This with the added bonus’ of speaking her love languages and pouring a little bit of myself into her ring.

The primary design difference I am considering is a band that she has consistently been drawn to over a plain band. I’m going to try and add an image below.


It sounds like you got a great vision together, ignore my worrying lol!

Here’s a link to instagram of a picture frame cut:

If the instagram link doesn’t work, the sellers account is brookescustoms and the stone cut is a tablet.

Imagine a clear stone mounted above an opal. Could be spectacular. Could be a mess :joy:


Thats a fairly easy band to do. If you need guidance on tools, how to etc, feel free to hit me up.

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Great suggestion! So so bad to delight in working hard and finishing your design, only to find out that the person you made it for doesn’t really like it.

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Thank you everyone for the replies and messages!

I have come to the conclusion that I was overthinking the thermal expansion point, now that I have looked into typical adhesives (330, UV cure) that have CTEs of 100. My current challenge appears to be getting the adhesive. I can’t find a local seller of Epoxy 330 and the closest seller is charging $60 shipping so I’m trying to find a suitable alternative. Vigors Jewelers Expoxy keeps coming up in my searches, does anyone have experience with it?

Still working on actually sourcing the moissanite cap, I have sent some messages but haven’t had any replies.

I have started modeling the band and will be modeling the opal next.