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It’s opal carving time!

Our world is locked down and for many, that means spending more and more time at home.

If you’ve got some spare time on your (thoroughly washed) hands, carving opal will gladly take up hours of it. I’m not kidding, this takes days!

I don’t enjoy opal carving as much as I enjoy making my signature JT oval cuts but when an opal calls for it, who am I to say no?

This piece has lots of beautiful color but is concaved, making it impossible to cut a nice high dome. I don’t want to waste the gorgeous color rippling through this wavy surface so I’m going to practice my opal carving skills.

Let’s start and see what we can get!

Carving opal

The tools I use to carve are a Dremel and various bits:

  • 300 grit hard diamond to carve and shape
  • 600 grit nova to smooth rough marks
  • a wooden tip with 1200 grit diamond paste
  • a felt tip with 8000 grit diamond paste to polish
  • a felt tip with cerium oxide to polish

The process of dremeling is a long and slow process that takes patience and an appreciation for opal. You can tackle opal carving one of two ways; you can listen to the opal and carve according to the color or you can do it your way.

If you’re just starting out, I’d highly recommend listening to the opal and carving in a way that works with the nobby you’ve got. It’s a great way to learn about opals naturally and then, once you know the rules, you can start to break them!

I followed the natural curves of this opal nobby, making sure to stop and dry it out so that I could get a clear idea of how things were looking.

After a couple of days and many hours spent listening to the consistent buzzing of the Dremel, my opal carving was complete!

opal carving piece of Australian opal from Lightning Ridge

Following up from last weeks video…

In last weeks video, we tested an opal in enough chemicals to melt concrete but I had one viewer that wasn’t happy I didn’t test the opal in acetone. So, I did. I left the same opal in a container of acetone for most of this video and it… didn’t change!

Opal is a resilient little gemstone but there are a couple of things it doesn’t like. Like me, opal can’t handle being heated for a long time (even slathered in sunscreen) and you shouldn’t drop it on a hard surface.