Cutting & Polishing Opal

bullet1 Don’t heat or freeze the stone. Use lots of water while cutting and grinding.
bullet1 Use epoxy as your dopping material; never use dopping wax as the wax and the stone must both be heated and heat puts the opal at risk of cracking/crazing.
bullet1 Don’t abuse the stone — be gentle, grind and polish with a light touch.
bullet1 Be sure that if you’re using silicon carbide wheels that they are round — a “true” wheel. (If the wheel is not round, it will slap the stone as it rotates – abuse!)
bullet1 Be patient … if you’re working and you get stuck and don’t know what to do, don’t do anything. Talk to someone (e.g. dealer) and ask what to.
bullet1 Reduce your machinery speed with controls or pulleys.
bullet1 Do not store opal in glycerine. Glycerine wants to remove water from opal.
bullet1 Don’t chase fire! More often than not “what you see is what you get.”
cut1lg The first step is to look at the material as carefully as you can. Look at it inside (candling), outside, wet, dry.
cut2lg The second step is to orient it. Determine what side will be the top, and the bottom, etc. A common question is, “Which side should I put on the top?”. Answer: put the side on the top that is the prettiest to you because it “faces” or windows the best.
cut3lg Shape it and get rid of all the hard, jagged edges. The reason: it is better for the stone and easier to “see” the future gem.
cut4lg Window it (grind a little edge here and there just to see how it will “face up”).
cut5lg Shape it by drawing lines on it to guide your eye. I use a pencil most of the time but I’m also using an indelible pen (Pilot, model SCUF).
cut6lg Grind, sand, and polish. Do it slowly and use a lot of water and you avoid all sources of heat that you can possibly avoid.
other KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) rules are:
cut7lg bullet3 If you’re fearful of the stone just stop what you’re doing take a minute and relax. Otherwise you are almost certain to make a mistake if you’re really feeling uptight about cutting that stone.
bullet3 You need some practice to develop your skill. You should use the low-grade, cheap opal in order to get practice cutting the material. Paradoxically, the lower the grade the harder it is to cut the material into a nice stone in comparison to higher grades but is cheap experience and you’ll get the “feel” of the material.
bullet3 Use the thinnest trim saw blade possible. I would never use anything thicker than a .006 blade (6 thousandths).
bullet3 A thin opal fire band sometimes lends itself to making triplets, doublets, or mosaics.
bullet3 If you have opal that shows fire only from the sides and won’t face-up, flat hishi-type beads are a good cutting alternative.
bullet3 Odd shapes of rough are great for carving or for baroque settings.
bullet3 Tiny chips make beautiful floating necklaces or mosaics.
bullet3 Small pieces cut standard sized stones for replacement of broken stones, and are less expensive than purchasing replacement stones.
bullet3 One creative customer of ours wants opals with irregularities (spiderwebs, holes, wavy fire bars, etc.) for her very creative settings. She is doing very well!
bullet3 You don’t need a faceter to cut a flat surface on the back of stone. What you need is a piece of wet and dry sandpaper and a table.
bullet3 Opal is not unlucky. That is a myth. OPAL IS YOUR PERSONAL RAINBOW!!!!!

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