To go along with the release of the Tiny Galaxies Collection, I thought I would create a post about Ethiopian Opals and how to care for them!
Like most opals, Ethiopian Opals are one of the more delicate stones that are used in jewelry. Ethiopian opals are unique, however, and I'd like to tell you a bit more about them (and also have a dedicated page as a resource if you happen to own an Ethiopian Opal piece from me).
Ethiopian Opals, also known as Welo Opals, were first discovered in Wollo Providence of Ethiopia in 2008 with another significant deposit found in 2013. The material from this location is produced from a vein of stratified volcanic rock. The formation of this opal was likely a result of silica-bearing waters that layered on top of the impermeable clay base as it percolated through pore spaces of ignimbrite -which is a material made up of pumice fragments.
Ethiopian Opals are a great value at the moment because their current abundance makes them more affordable that other types of Opal that have been on the market longer and are waning in availability. On top of that, the amount of fire and color they display is right on par with some of the most valuable varieties of Opal on this planet (so it's really a win-win!). Some even display unique violet tones, which is not common in opals (or any stone for that matter).
One of the other unique feature of these opals is that they are hydrophane, which means they absorb water. This means a few different things should be considered, and is important to know about your Eithiopian Opal pieces.
So first, lets talk benefits. The benefit of Ethiopian Opals being hydrophane, is that unlike many other types of opal that are prone to drying out and crazing, Ethiopian opal does not really suffer this particular issue. Since they will tend to maintain a good moisture content from the surrounding atmosphere, they are much less likely to suffer crazing as a result of becoming too dry and brittle.
The things to be mindful of though, is that you want to avoid submerging these stones in liquids whether its water, oils or lotions. Please remove opal jewelry before washing hands, putting on lotion, swimming, showering or similar activities. I say this for all my jewelry because really, it's the best thing to do to care for all kinds of jewels, but it's especially important for this absorbent stone (or ones that are transparent).
When submerged in water for enough time, the stones will absorb the moisture and wind up with a clear, lusterless appearance. If able to fully dry out to a normal level of atmospheric moisture, the stone's colors should come back to it, but because I work with bezel settings I would be very concerned that this might take a very long time as much of the stone is sealed within metal. Of course the other concern would be that the additional moisture could slightly expand the stone and cause it to crack in the confines of the setting.
Even a loose stone could potentially take days or weeks to dry out depending on the unique nature of the material and how much and how deeply the water absorbed. So I emphasize avoiding water with these just in case. I've heard that sometimes, the stone is forever changed if it becomes thoroughly saturated. Should this accidentally happen to your piece, do not try to rush or assist the drying process with a hair dryer or heat. It's best to let the stone sit and dry naturally until it can rebalance with the ambient moisture levels.
All that being said, there is chance that on a rainy day the appearance of the opal will fluctuate slightly. This is normal and part of this opal's personality as it adjusts to moisture in the air. It may become a touch more clear, or a touch more cloudy depending on the atmospheric levels and the unique composition of each individual stone. So if you do see slight changes once in a while, this is normal and there's no need to fret. A drop or two of rain on the stone once in a while should be an ok thing, but it would be a good idea to use a soft microfiber cloth to wipe the water from the stone soon as possible should this happen.
Lastly, as I mentioned in the beginning, opals in general are one of the most delicate of stones. It's best to remove opal jewelry before any heavy activities like gardening, exercise or housekeeping. It's said that these opals are actually a bit more resilient than some other types, but they are still opals and direct hits to the stone should be avoided to prevent chipping or damage to it.
I'm so glad to share the inspiring beauty of this material with you all and to everyone who shopped the Tiny Galaxies Collection, thank you so much for supporting my work. With mindful care and a gentile approach these pieces should last a lifetime.