'Been in the business 15 years and never seen anything like this
(and boy, oh boy, do we need advice :(!!!
53.5 carat, 32 X 25mm, huge, thick, high domed opal. Customer
paid $1200 years ago, had a recent appraisal of over $5000.
Stone appears (appearED) to be Australian white with tons of pin
fire–but the matrix had a pale peachy, pink cast that my husband
and I have NEVER seen before (similar in color to the ryolite
matrix of Mexican opal material, but definitely not mexican
opal) . We surmised the stone had been “Opticoned” and the
customer said she also thought the stone had been “coated” with
something. However the appraisal mentioned nothing concerning
coating or treatment (great appraiser, huh? ) And
we’ve never seen Opticon change the hue of a stone.
I set the stone using 14K wire, polished it with red rouge
(being very careful not allow rouge on stone) threw it in the
dish (full of warm water with a squirt of Joy) with the other
pieces I had just polished, took it to the sink, pulled it out of
the dish and… Oh My God, the stone was like medium orange and
you could barely see the fire of the opal at all. Immediately I
filled a container with 4 cups of warm water and about 3
tablespoons of bleach and started dipping the stone and softly
scrubbing with a toothbrush. Well this caused a tyedye looking
stone, parts going almost white, some staying orange, and others
somewhere inbetween. About this time, I heard what sounded like
wire breaking, so I looked closely and right before my eyes, the
14K wire started breaking where I had made bends with the pliers.
So, I rinsed it thoroughly and set it on a paper towel. In the
next 15 minutes, the wire broke spontaneously in over 15
different places - Oh My God Again.
I removed the stone from the setting and hit it with some
Fabulustre on a muslin buff - Oh now that’s interesting, the
stone “absorbed” the Fabulustre and now has these white splotches
atop the tyedye - what a nightmare.
I’m guessing this baby must have been sugar/sulphuric acid
treated? Maybe that’s what caused the wires to break
spontaneously? I’ve set and wrapped and Rick has cut Australian,
Mexican, Spencer, and other types of opal (probably over 500
stones). A few times I have discolored opal using rouge, and a
little bit of bleach in a lot of water always did the trick
before. But this is a mess and I’m not sure what to do. I
haven’t contacted the customer yet.
My first instinct was to put it in “Attack” (the solution that
removes Opticon), but if this opal’s been sugar/acid treated,
don’t I run the risk of it disintegrating the opal? I’ve seen
sugar treated opals just crumble away in an ultrasound. Is there
anything we can do to save this opal, and what happened to the
14K wire that caused it to break spontaneously in so many places?
Any and all advice gladly received! Help, help, help! Rick and
My original letter hasn’t even posted back to my email yet, but
there’s been quite a change in the opal in the last 2 hours!
It is almost 100% back to it’s original color - go figure! This
Also, I’ve carefully examined the 14K wire. First, it was from
Tripps (a source that I have dealt with for years), so I’m pretty
sure there was no problem with the original wire. Second, the
only place the wire broke (disintegrated is more like it) is
where the wire came into contact with the actual opal. I’m
guessing that somehow the sulphuric acid they use during the
sugar treating somehow interacted with the mild bleach solution
to cause the wire to disintegrate (?). The opal itself was
intensely discolored after only approx. 7-8 minutes in mild soapy
water and the weak bleach solution seemed to make no difference
to the opal. So now there’s the issue of $$$.
If I return the opal in it’s original form, explaining what
happened, how, and maybe why (if y’all could help me figure this
out), then there’s still the issue of approx $100 worth of 14K
('not even thinking of recouping labor - at this point I’m pretty
sure the lady would have told me her opal was treated if she had
known it). I’d love to offer to mount it again, as this was to
be a very special present for her daughter, but dare I even
offer? (If the thing were to ever come into contact with water or
bleach it might disintegrate the mounting again, right?)
Again, any all advice and experiences gladly heard!
Kristi and Rick