Can an opal come into contact with water?

Can an opal come into contact with water?

The opal, also known as the gemstone with an enchanting play of colours. These gemstones have attracted tremendous interest over the centuries.

This unique gemstone is known to have an ability to reflect a huge range of colours. The question of whether an opal can handle water comes up with regularity. Can an opal safely come into contact with water, or is there a risk of damage? Let's explore that together in this blog.

What is an opal?

Before talking about opals and the influences of water, it is of course important to know what an opal and their characteristics actually are. Opal itself is a hydrate silicate mineral which consists of a complicated mixture of silica and water. The opal desperately needs this composition to create their unique play of colours This phenomenon is also known as the opal-scence effect.

The water content of opals

An opal is distinguished from other gemstones by its water content, which can vary from around 3% to as much as 21%. The significant water content naturally contributes to opals' unique properties. However, this also makes the opal sensitive to moisture changes and direct contact with water.

Opals and the effect of water

As we mentioned earlier, an opal can be sensitive to moisture changes and direct contact with water. Let us elaborate on that.

Temporary phenomena

Once an opal comes into contact with water, temporary phenomena may occur. This is because water can penetrate the outer layer of the opal. This can affect the effect of opals' colours. This can intensify or, at worst, weaken the play of colours. Fortunately, this effect is temporary and is usually reversible once the opal has dried up completely.

Long-term risk

The longer-term impact of water on an opal is a slightly bigger concern. In fact, it seems that prolonged exposure to water could lead to the loss of the water content in the opal. This could cause the opal to crack or even lose its luster. This process or phenomenon is also known as 'crazing', unfortunately the effect is irreversible and can significantly affect the opal's value and beauty.

Does an opal need special care?

Opals do indeed have their own way of care, let's elaborate on that.

Avoid prolonged contact with water

It is important never to expose your opal to water for long periods of time. It is often said that it shouldn't matter if you wash your hands, for example, and then touch the opal again, here too I would be careful. Not only water but also chemicals from soap can affect this. So don't go swimming or showering with your opal jewellery either. Always try to avoid water in almost all cases. Well there is one type of opal that works a little differently. This is the crystal opal, as these need a little humidity to ensure that the stone does not dry out and crack, or that the opal is a lot more sensitive to knocks.

Maintenance and storage

If you want to protect and preserve the beauty and integrity of the opal, it is incredibly important to maintain the stone properly and store it safely. For example, store your opal in a fabric-lined jewellery box or in a gemstone box so that you can also look at it at all times. You will prevent exposure to extreme humidity levels with this, for example.

Cleaning tips

If you would like to clean your opal, use a soft, dry cloth. Should water be necessary for cleaning, use a quick rinse under lukewarm water and then carefully dry the opal again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I wear my opal jewellery while washing my hands?

Brief contact with water, such as hand washing, is theoretically safe for opal jewellery, provided it is dried immediately and thoroughly afterwards.

What should I do if my opal gets wet?

If your opal accidentally gets wet, dry it as soon as possible with a soft, absorbent cloth. In all cases, avoid using heat or direct sunlight to dry the stone, as this can cause damage.


We at understand better than anyone that opals require special care. We stick to this and try to inform you as best we can through our blogs. Be careful with water in all cases, although brief touches with water will not do much, prolonged contact with water will damage the opal irreparably.

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