Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Opal-Just in Time for Valentines Day!

This weekend I made it to the gem show that was in town. I got two things that made me happy: rough opal and a strand of garnet nuggets. Not too much else to get excited about, though. So, opal: I spent maybe an hour and a half pawing through the rough opal. I only had $45 in cash i was allowing myself to spend, and i kept digging out great pieces of opal that would have cost half that. Oh, it was so hard to choose between all the pieces! I decided that for a beginner in cutting, more was better so I opted for cheaper pieces. This is what I walked away with (without spending all my money)

A couple pieces to work with. All but one piece came from Ethiopia. What is interesting about this opal is it is something called hydrophane opal. This sort of opal is particularly porus so it soaks up water and will even change color! White hydrophane opal will turn clear in water, and the pink opal from Mezezo turned deep brown! Some folks say that this sort of opal should be cut dry, which means you have to be extra careful about heat. I tried it both with water and without. Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages.

 The first stone I tried to shape was this Mezezo opal. It had a strange shape with pits and cleaves, but it was enough of a heart shape I decided to cut it that way so as not to loose too much material. In the photograph of the rough stone you can see that dark dot: that was a drop of water that turned it dark!

I think it came out pretty good-although its a pretty thick piece so I fear it would be difficult to set. As I polished the piece I kept it  in my fingers rather than a dop stick so I could  gauge the tempature. I cut this piece without water, so overheating was a real danger. The heat seemed to sink to the center of the stone, so I didn't even notice until I started getting puckering on the backside! Oh no!  I had to go back and smooth out the back again. I finally decided to use just a little water to help with the heat, not much but enough to keep it a little cool. It is hard to do, though, because this sort of opal literally sucks up water!

 I am not one for hearts, but this is a pretty cute little stone. I was so proud of myself for cutting it I walked around with it a few days. :) The fire that this opal has is pretty impressive, the pictures do not do it justice! This would make a pretty sweet V-day gift for a rockhound or an opal lover.

I'll be back with more on my opals soon.

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