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Opal Triplet question

Hi All!

I’ve recently encountered a problem with some purchased opal
triplets. Two different stones, two different rings, one customer.
The customer purchased a bezel set ring with a triplet ( the ring was
one which I had made and the triplet was purchased at a wholesale
show in Michigan a few years ago, I set it in the ring.) The opal
was clear and very colorful when I delivered it to the gallery from
which it was sold. The customer took the ring home, wore it for a
few days and then returned the ring for re-sizing. Rather than try
to stretch the ring two sizes, I removed the opal triplet, and put it
into a similar, but larger ring which I made. As I was re-setting
the stone, I noticed a crescent shape of “fog” below the cap of the
opal. This foggy area was not in the triplet when I set it in the
first ring. So, I replaced that opal triplet with another which was
similar in color.

A week after the customer picked up the ring, the gallery owner
called me and said that the customer thought she got water on the
stone and that a foggy crescent shape appeared on the opal. I have
no idea what would have caused this, nor why this happened to two
different stones . . .

Other than admiring opals, I know very little about them, and I know
nothing about how triplets are put together. I know they have three
layers: base, opal, and cap. Are they glued? What kind of glue is
used? Can these layers come apart and can water actually get inside?
Can I repair these stones? If not, how can I prevent this from
happening again (I have 6 more stones and all were purchased from the
same person at the same wholesale show.)

Thanks for ANY advice!!!

The fog below the cap of the opal is probably a separation between
the clear top and the micro thin slice of opal.

Return the stones to your supplier as the bond between the layers is
poor. I suspect that they’ve got a problem with the whole batch. It
doesn’t often happen but it is a failure of triplets. I don’t consider
them a usable stone in rings. They’re far too fragile and although
they’re pretty they really aren’t up to it.

There’s no real way to mend them.

Unless someone else knows otherwise?

Tony Konrath Gold and Stone

My reply would be don’t buy triplets. Some can be very good,
everything depends on the quality of the manufacture. If you’re
willing to accept failure of the triplet and replace it and find that
acceptable then use them. I do quite a few retail shows and feature
opals in my designs so I get many questions about opal. Many of the
questions have to do with failure of triplets. If you tell your
customers of the possibility and garantee your work, the price of
triplets compared to a full cut opal could be very attractive. I
don’t use them in my work just to avoid the aggravation. Kevin

    I've recently encountered a problem with some purchased opal
triplets.   I noticed a crescent shape of "fog" below the cap of
the opal.  I have no idea what would have caused this, nor why this
happened to two different stones . . . 

I had the same thing happen to a triplet I purchased in Thailand.
You might try taking apart the first stone that went bad and see what
it is made of. The one I had looked like it had been assembled with a
layer of opal impregnated paper between the 2 outer layers. As soon
as dampness or humidity got in it created a rapidly growing cloudiness
under the clear cap. It might save you some embaressment if you ruin
one stone before you sell the others. There is a great amount of
suspect “opal” material out there…

Jim Marotti
Lancaster, TN

OK Triplets are glued together 3 pieces, quartz or plastic top, opal
center either natural mosaic or gilson, and base usually of basalt or
onyx. Triplets are USUALLY glued into jewelry hence very difficult to
remove (cannot soak in acetone will come apart), and when bezel set
can be removed safely. Constant exposure to water, solvents, hair
sprays, finger nail polish remover all will breakdown these glued
layers…if the Triplet pieces are older then the glue technology may
have been lesser quality compared to todays “super epoxy’s” Triplets
can develop this fog when the seal has been broken, overheating or
cracking of opal layer from clear top. They generally cannot be
repaired. I would recommend that the ones you purchased be carefully
inspected before using they may already be “ready to part”. I would be
glad to inspect them, we usually SCOPE all triplets old and new before
purchase or repair. Hope this helps. Jeff.

Opals International Jewelers, Inc.
CALL 1-800-376-6725
Celebrating 20 Years in Gems and Jewelry
Over 6 Years on the Internet !!
Fax 405-495-6611 Phone 405-495-6610
Toll-Free USA 1-800-376-6725


As far as I know the adhesives of choice in the Australian opal
fields are “Araldite” or “UHU.” Both are 2 part epoxies and
comparatively slow-curing, that is, 24 hours rather than the five
minute variety.

Of course the person who made your triplets might have used anything,
and that may be at the root of the problem. Cyanoacrylate (crazy glue)
for example is sensitive to water. Also, the components, base, opal
wafer and cap, may not have been clean.

I’ve also seen the crescents happening as the layers detach. There
isn’t much that can be done (unless you’re extremely lucky). It’s next
to impossible to get the adhesive fully dissolved off, and even if you
do, then you have the problem of handling a loose and exceptionally
thin opal wafer in re-building the triplet. Also, the opal wafer
itself may be cracked as the adhesive detaches.The deperation
approach, if you must salvage this particular stone, would be to place
it in acetone for a few weeks to months, just leave it there and
forget about it. Maybe, maybe, if you’re lucky the acetone will get in
there and dissovlve out the adhesive. Chances are not good, and then,
as mentioned, there’s the problem of handling that thin opal wafer if
the compoments do come loose.

I managed to salvage, after a fashion, one triplet which was
detaching in the manner you described (the stone had sentimental
value) by putting it into acetone for a week, then placing it in a
solution of 75% acetone and 25% (mixed) epoxy for a day. This makes a
thin and watery solution and gets into the layers better. At the end
of that treatment the stone looked “nearly new” - but if you looked
closely you could still see the areas where the original adhesive had
been detaching.

In short, you may be able to improve things. But a total repair,
bringing it back to perfection, nope, can’t be done.

Hans Durstling
Moncton, Canada

I wonder if “Opticon” and a vacumn machine would solve your
opal-triplet “fog” problem.

   Can these layers come apart and can water actually get inside?
Can I repair these stones?  If not,  how can I prevent this from
happening again  

Never buy opal triplets unless they come with a lifetime replacement
guarantee. Modern assembled stones can be easily given this assurance
using todays high tech adhesives. Not too many opal dealers are
prepared to make any such guarantee with solid opals, ourselves
included, but no reputable triplet dealer should refuse to replace
your stones.

As far as repair, the value of the stones will determine how much
fooling around time you are prepared to invest. A stone costing less
than $10 is hardly worth while but as triplets can easily command
prices into the thousands sometimes an effort is called for. Never
try to separate the stone chemically as acetone or Attack will
invariably cause the epoxy to expand unevenly shattering the thin
opal slice.

I have had success with Opticon and a vacuum pump or an ultrasonic
cleaner. I heat the resin and immersed stone with boiling water in
preparation for either treatment. I use a plastic bag in the
ultrasonic as I can move it around to get the best action. Sometimes
you can play around for a long time, or several sessions, before the
air is cleared completely from the stone. It is important to set the
Opticon, a step often overlooked in some emerald treatments, I have
found that heat does an excellent job of setting Opticon and a coffee
pot warmer is just about the right temperature. Don’t forget to clean
off the stone before heat setting the Opticon otherwise you will have
a much more difficult job.

HTH. Tony.

                      Anthony L.  Lloyd-Rees
End of forwarded message

       Can these layers come apart and can water actually get
inside? Can I repair these stones?  If not,  how can I prevent this
from happening again 

Hi Folks,

I’ve been following this thread, the past few days… I agree with
what Tony’s said, but would add that I’ve had better success at
repairing parted doublets and triplets using relatively inexpensive
Devcon 5-minute epoxy than I have with Opticon. On the three
occasions when this popped up, my method involved submerging the
stone in some unmixed epoxy resin in a small aluminum foil “well”
(made by forming the foil over the bottom of a baby food jar), then
heating that on top of a dop wax warmer (probably about the same
temperature range as what Tony’d suggested). Next, I vacuumed the
stone (i.e. bell jar), and later, after removing it from its
"puddle", wiped it down with a part 2-(hardener)-saturated paper
towel. By doing so, I sealed the epoxy resin inside the fissure and
cleaned off the surface of the piece, without having to worry about
the differential cure rates or transparencies between the original
adhesive and that I’d used. In all fairness, Tony’s solution probably
provides a better bond, at least initially, but mine worked more
easily for me than did a previous attempt with Opticon. (And,
besides, I’d just as soon not have to “enjoy” the fine fragrance of
Optican, if I can avoid it.)

Best Regards,
Doug Turet