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Jewelry, Gems, & Minerals/old opals w/o luster


What can you do if the opal cannot be taken out of the ring?

When holding it close to the light, it looks like it has a lot of fire. Away from light and looking down at it,  you can see a little fire.

Please let me know.   Thank you very  much for being a part of this valued service!


Dear Sandy,

I am sorry for the slight delay in getting back to you. Now I will try and give you some ideas about polishing the opal surface to restore the shine and allow the fire to show through.

I have polished many opals while still in the jewelry setting. Also, I have turned down the work in a few cases because the stone was set in such a way the polishing device could not reach the gemstone.

BEZEL  The best setting style for polishing a cabochon(domed or flat topped stone without facets) is a bezel.  This link shows a bezel setting of a basic type:

You will see the stone is held in place with a rim of metal around the waist of the gem.  A stone set in this manner may be polished by moving the surface of the stone against a turning gem polishing wheel  By holding in the fingers,the gem may be turned to all of the surface down to very close to the bezel may be polished. You do not want to run the metal bezel on the wheel and the metal may be worn thinner to some extent.  This work is best done by someone who has a dedicated gem polishing set-up.

PRONG SETTINGS  Examine the setting very closely to see if is it possible to remove the stone by loosening the prongs and still have enough metal to hold the stone in the setting once the polishing is finished.  If there is not a way to safely remove the gem, polishing may be done as described above but only the very top and a slight portion of the sides will be polished. When polished this way, if you look closely the lower portions of the opal may still have some of the original polish left since the prongs protected the stone against wear. Care should be taken not to polish much metal from the prongs.

Tools Needed include a soft felt  or leather wheel for use in a rotary tool, either a Dremel™ type handpiece or a larger wheel for use with a polishing motor machine. The wheel is run at a medium speed and with water to keep the stone from getting hot. A polishing compound such as aluminum oxide or linde® power or cerium oxide is put on the wetted wheel and as the wheel turn the stone surface is moved along the wheel surface to cover as much of the stone as possible. With a hand tool, the jewelry is in one hand and the rotary tool in the other. A combination of movement with one hand or both will keep the small rotating wheel moving along the stone surface.  After about 5 minutes rinse the stone and look for progress.  You should see improvement in shine.

Any deep scratches will not be removed by the polish and should be sanded away. With a mounted gem in a bezel this is possible but I do not recommend sanding with a prong set stone.

Sandy, generally a jeweler with some lapidary experience will do this work. You might also check a local rock and gem shop and ask of there are local people who might polish the stone for you. Good lapidary (stone cutting) hobbyists often do an excellent job and have more experience with stone polishing than does a retail jeweler.  A rock and gem shop may also have the supplies needed and can make you familiar with what is needed.

Yes, in many cases a gemstone may be polished while still in the setting. In some settings this procedure simply will not work. In almost all cases at least the top of the stone may be polished and that touch of fresh shine makes the entire stone look much, much better than before.

Sandy, get back with me as you need, using a follow-up to this answer. I do not know if you simply want to know if it is possible to polish a set opal or if you intend to try the work yourself. If you need information more specific to your situation please feel free to get back with me. Fair enough?

God Bless and Peace.  Thomas.  

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Have a question about jewelry repair or working with precious metal jewelry and gemstones? For many years up to December 31, 2010, I was a working professional bench jeweler, involved everyday with setting stones in mountings, designing and making jewelry, repairing and limited custom manufacture. If you work with jewelry as a hobby or as a profession, I might be able to help. I deal with the retail business, not mass production. Ask privately if you wish. See the box for that: It keeps your question between us. Please DO NOT ask MAKER'S MARKS, but metal quality marks are fine to ask. Please DO NOT ask diamond prices. See a gemologist for that.


I have extensive experience in design, service and making of jewelry. I deal mostly with precious metals and gemstones but work with many materials as needed and usable to create an artistic design. My experience also includes freelance photography and photographer of jewelry and similar items for a former employer and individuals. Design of custom items requires reading the desires of the client and being clear on what can be done within that framework...then fulfilling the transition of idea to reality. Effective communications is essential in a working designer/producer and customer relationship.

Education is English/Physics! Started in human resources, to advertising, to, what a road. I have had formal training in jewelry work and many shared experiences with top grade jewelers. We just never know were we will go or be. Follow your best, your dreams, with some discretion! Don't let the work tear up your body along the way as it has mine.

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