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Ethiopian Opals and How to Care for Them

AAA Opal Bracelet

Ethiopian Opals are one of the newest additions to the opal family, only discovered in 2008 in the Wollo Province of Ethiopia. They are sometimes referred to as Welo Opals or African Opals.  

Ethiopian Opals are usually light in colour and the high grade opals display mesmerising, at times, almost neon flashes of fire. As beautiful as these opals are, they are very temperamental and require special care and handling. 

 

 1. Keep Your Ethiopian Opals Away from Water and Liquids. 

Ethiopian Opals are "hydrophane", which makes them thirsty for water. If the opals come in contact with water, they will absorb it like a sponge. If the opals are left in water and allowed to soak it up, they may lose their fire temporarily and turn yellow or brown. But don't worry, the fire and colour will come back once the opals have fully dried, which can take a few minutes to weeks, depending on how much water they managed to absorb. 

ethiopian opal bar necklace

2. Do Not Expose Your Opals to Extreme Changes in Temperature. 

Opals are sometimes referred to as "living gems" due to their ability to soak up liquids. Ethiopian opals handle gradual temperature changes well. So when drying an opal that has managed to soak up water and lose its fire, let it dry naturally. Do not try to speed up the process by placing the opals under a hot light or hair dryer. 

3. Avoid Liquid Chemicals Around Your Ethiopian Opals. 

Because of the opal's "thirstiness", liquids like perfumes, soaps and cleaning products can stains your opals and change their colour. If that happens, try washing them with warm water and wiping with a soft cloth before allowing them to dry on their own. 

4. Never Use an Ultrasonic Cleaner or a Steamer. 

A lot of jewellers use ultrasonic cleaners to clean gemstone jewellery. While some gemstones can withstand it, Ethiopian opals are more fragile and may crack. To clean your opals, simply wipe away with a soft cloth.

Peridot and opal bracelet

5. Avoid Manual Labour when Wearing Your Opals. 

When wearing opal jewellery, you should remember its moderate hardness and toughness. It rates 5.5 to 6.5 on Moh's scale of hardness. This puts them below quartz (7) and emeralds (7.5 to 8) and above pearls and coral (3 to 4). This means that it is best to take off your opal rings and bracelets when trying to build an IKEA bookshelf or weed your garden! 

I know that this all seems like a lot of work and it may be easier to just buy jewellery featuring a tougher gemstone. But just look at this: 

opal threaders

Personally, Ethiopian opals are one of my favourite gemstones. Their beautiful flashes of fire in all colours of the rainbow makes them so magical and unique. And if you take care of them properly, they can last you a lifetime and more. 

 

With love,
Nina 
xx

P.S. You can see Pearlberry's range of Ethiopian Opal jewellery here

 

EDIT: I have received a lot of comments asking how to proceed when their opals turn yellow or brown. In most cases, the process isn't reversible. You can try to leave the opals in a sunny and dry location to see if they turn back to their original colour but, in my experience, they rarely do. 

 

2022 UPDATE: After working with Ethiopian Opals for 7 years I have decided to stop using them in my jewellery - they are too unstable when it comes to colour and too soft on the Mohs hardness scale. 


30 Responses

Julie
Julie

August 17, 2022

I have yellow opals too! This is so disappointing. I didn’t get them wet, so not sure what caused it. I guess nothing can be done?

Thank you, Julie

Susan
Susan

August 17, 2022

I have Australian opal rings and a necklace that I purchased years ago and they are as beautiful as the day I purchased them. Not one hint of yellow. That said I also have Ethiopian opal earrings and a ring that I bought off of JTV. They have turned the ugly yellow color lots of people are complaining about. I was shocked. I am seeing comments about keeping opals out of water because this can change the color. But I have never gotten my earrings wet. And they are a dangle style so they do not touch my skin. I think the people selling Ethiopian opals are well aware that no matter how you store these they will turn yellow. I would suggest not buying them. I would imagine it has something to do with the way they are treated, possibly resin they are sealed with. All the comments I have seen are about Ethiopian opals turning yellow.

Susan
Susan

August 17, 2022

I have Australian opals that I purchased years ago and they are as beautiful as the day I purchased them. Not one hint of yellow. That said I also have Ethiopian opal earrings and a ring that I bought off of JTV. They have turned the ugly yellow color lots of people are complaining about. I was shocked. I am seeing comments about keeping opals out of water because this can change the color. But I have never gotten my earrings wet. And they are a dangle style so they do not touch my skin. I think the people selling these jewelry pieces are well aware that no matter how you store these they will turn yellow. I would suggest not buying them. I would imagine it has something to do with the way they are treated

Pat Kozel
Pat Kozel

August 17, 2022

I see many comments from buyers stating that their opals were exposed to water & then changed to yellow &/or brownish in color. My opal turned yellow & I don’t recall ever having exposed it to water. It is stored in an anti tarnish jewelry box & it has been worn very infrequently. I see many suggestions about letting the stones dry out & something about using glycerine on the stones…..nothing definitive. What’s the deal on this? It seems that opals are a bad purchase & due to sensitivity shouldn’t even be sold.

Toni
Toni

August 17, 2022

unfortunately ethopian opal is so color fragile…if exposed to water you can forget it! I would not buy again…there is a reason why Australian opals cost more. It is the rings that are most subject to fading more than say earrings or pendant…which don’t come into water contact much.

Haley
Haley

August 17, 2022

I have just started to work with welo ethiopian opals and didn’t realize how sensitive they were to water, oils and sweat from the body. I am wondering if you do any type of stabilizing or use any type of sealant on the Welo Opals before crafting them into jewelry?

Haley
Haley

August 17, 2022

I have just started to work with welo ethiopian opals and didn’t realize how sensitive they were to water, oils and sweat from the body. I am wondering if you do any type of stabilizing or use any type of sealant on the Welo Opals before crafting them into jewelry?

Carolyn
Carolyn

August 17, 2022

I have a large collection of Ethiopian opals including one piece I haven’t worn all have turned yellow,purchased from gemporia.i fell in love with these stones but now don’t believe they all stable enough to be used in Jewellery.I have an antique Australian opal and it is perfect.

Vickie
Vickie

August 17, 2022

I bought an Ethiopian opal last December. It turned brown. I put it in the sunlight for a few weeks, it looks good again. I’m afraid to wear it again. Is there a way I can wear it that will not cause it to turn brown again? I had another one from the 70’s wear it all the time with no problem. I didn’t realize the Ethiopian couldn’t get wet or be worn normally.
Thank you for any help you can offer!

Lana Graves
Lana Graves

August 17, 2022

Did you know welo opal also absorbs the natural oils in your skin its while wearing it. Thus enhancing the opals fire according to each individual it takes you into it. That’s why you should never give a preowned opal to another person. That persons essence is in the stone. If you place your opals in a brown paper bag and then set on roof it will dry out and enhance opals color kinda like how it works wiTH avocados. Love lana

Victor Magnes
Victor Magnes

August 17, 2022

I have taken a opal that went all most transparent and put it in a very low temp oven what we use for enamel work bring a jeweller and it’s coming back to Colour I have never in my life soon this happen.
Just learned something amazing

Jessica
Jessica

August 17, 2022

My Ethiopian opal turned a burnt orange color after eight months or so of wear, I was afraid it was done for good..

HOWEVER, I wanted to give it one last chance.

I sat my ring in a sunny window for a few days and “forgot” about it. My ring is almost back to its original, beautiful color play!

Don’t leave your opal in the bathroom! The opal will suck up all the water in the humidity. Don’t wash your hands while wearing or use any sanitizers or moisturizers.

I now keep my opal in the window if I’m not wearing it.

I hope these tips will help!

Kate
Kate

August 17, 2022

Hi all, my Ethiopian Opal engagement ring has turned to yellow and never changed back to it’s original aura. I’m so so upset about it as it’s my engagement ring!!
Does anyone have professional opinions what I can do to make it change back? Or, the yellowish color is it permanent? :’(
Thank you all.

Kim
Kim

August 17, 2022

Hiya, I have ring which is a small ethiopian opal set in simulated diamonds – it has been in my ring box for a couple of months now (due to lockdown I haven’t worn it!) but it has gone yellow and clear :( Is there any way around this? It has not come into contact with water at all

Michael
Michael

August 17, 2022

Guys i have no idea if this will work but soumds like at point of no return on some of the opal stories. They use smoke to make a welo opal appear like a black opal and they sit they stones in a smoke room or whatever its called but over period of time the smoke enters the opal. I figure i would try to reverse this so ive been soaking a smoked one in distilled water, think i did few hours then over night once. I soak then let them dry then gauge if its working. It has really seemed to work . Actually i know it has. So hooefully this may work for u. What got to loose. Change water freguently
Take care and hope all is well.

REGINA MCFARLAND
REGINA MCFARLAND

August 17, 2022

I have the same yellow problem with a ring and earring set, is there anything I can try that well possibly bring back the original color. Im reading the comments but don’t see any answers

Sangeeta
Sangeeta

February 24, 2020

I’ll have this. I want to know that Ethiopian opal is good as gemstones or not?

Diana Russell
Diana Russell

February 24, 2020

Hi, Nina,
I have what used to be a beautiful transparent white welo opal ring. It has gotten wet quite a bit during the time I’ve owned it. I wasn’t aware of the rules not to get it wet. Now all the opals are red brown and quite unattractive. I’ve tried at least 9 months waiting for the stones to dry out
to their original color but they have not changed back at all. What do you suggest I do to bring them back to their original beauty? Thanks for your response. Sincerely, Diana Russell

Patie Nelson
Patie Nelson

February 24, 2020

I have several opals that tunes yellow. They won’t turn back to original color. Help please.

Linda
Linda

February 24, 2020

I love Ethiopian Welo opals! I have been buying pieces here and there over the years, they are so pretty!!!
But I have a big concern. I was going through my jewelry box, & with several of the rings and pendants that are Ethiopian Welo Opal, the opals have turned orange. They are still translucent, but the body color is orange, making them look like a fire opal. How do I fix this? I don’t want the opals to be orange, I want them back the way they were when I bought them….

Shirley
Shirley

February 24, 2020

I was told at a gem show to buy glycerin and put on my opal when storing it to keep it nice. I have a large Ethiopian opal ring, and a large opal necklace that is from here on the US. Will glycerin be ok to rub on these stones?

Karla Friend
Karla Friend

February 24, 2020

I’m wondering how I get the opals to be clear again they have turned brown? Please help

Denise
Denise

February 24, 2020

My beautiful opal ring has yellowed. I’ve had it in my jewelry box now for 2 months and it still hasn’t changed. Jeweler never told me to keep it out of water. How long can it take to change back? Will it ever? It was so expensive !!!!

Judith
Judith

February 24, 2020

I got my opal ring wet, I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to expose them to water, I have had them laying out for several months and they are still yellow. Can someone please help me.

Carol Melton
Carol Melton

February 24, 2020

Hi nina, thanks for the lovely necklace and bracelet, delivery was quick, and they were beautifully packaged. Also the personal touch was so nice.
Carol.

Kristen
Kristen

February 24, 2020

Thank you so much for explaining this!! My fiance picked out a handmade opal engagement ring for me. The jeweler said I could wear it all the time without worry. I do take it off while showering because I’m scared it will slip off while washing my hair! Other than that, I keep it on all the time. After a couple of months, I’ve noticed that it’s turned yellow and I don’t see any more of those features in it that used to catch the light and glow. I think this explains that, though. I think I’ll stop allowing it to get wet and see what happens when it’s fully dry. I had no idea that they absorbed water!

Mary
Mary

February 24, 2020

My husband got me an opal “egg” ring for mothers day. It is not solid as it has sandstone in it. It is so special to me and has been my absolute most favorite piece of jewellery I’ve ever had. I wore it all of the time during the summer, including in a chlorinated pool. I had no idea the chlorine would affect it! What was once a brilliant flashy stone now has a brown cloudy streak going across it!
Is there anything I can do to restore it?? I was planning on passing this down to my daughter one day and hoping she would do the same! Help!

Michele Manzella
Michele Manzella

November 22, 2018

Hi Nina, I have some beautiful Ethiopian Opals but many of the beads have turned yellow. especially around the neck due to body oils. I have been advised to put the yellowed opal beads into a 100% alcohol solution that is in an enclosed container for about a week. Then to take them out and put them into a a container of uncooked rice in a dark area. Although I’ve been told this will not completely return the opals to their original luster, it’s supposed to help restore to about 80% of the original. Would you please let me know what you think of this process, or if you have any other ideas that work. Thank you, Michele Manzella

Christian Winder
Christian Winder

November 22, 2018

Hey Nice blog about proper caring for Ethiopian opal gem. I am from Australia and love Opal gemstones and having a opal ring as my engagement ring I feel blessed. I am looking for its caring tips and this post seems relevant to my needs. Thanks for sharing your views.

Carl
Carl

November 22, 2018

I have a loose welo opal and was wondering what type of glue/adhesive can be used to set them without any absorption or color change?

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Sizing Guide
Buying jewellery can be a daunting task. So many times I have bought rings and bracelets just to find that they were too big for me. This is why I have decided to add a simple ring size chart to make your shopping experience easier. 
Pearlberry Jewellery Silver Rings
I love that most Pearlberry rings have adjustable bands, which means they will fit most fingers. This also means that you will be able to wear them on different fingers. I personally prefer wearing them on my middle finger - it gives me a chance to show off the ring without making a statement about my marital status. I also love wearing rings on my index finger, especially statement rings or cocktail rings. 
I have prepared a ring size chart, which includes a useful sizing tool, so that you may find out your ring size in the privacy of your home. All you need is a printer and some scissors. Click here to access the sizing guide.
If you are shopping for your partner and do not want her finding out about it, borrow one of her rings (make sure the ring fits the right finger - I have made this mistake before and the recipient ended up with a thumb ring) and use our sizing chart to measure it. 
Pearlberry Jewellery International Sizing Conversion Chart Tool
I hope you found this post useful. Happy shopping! 
With love,
Nina 
x