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Polishing opal to $12,000 perfection

Polishing opal can make or break a gem.

Being the final step in the opal cutting process, an opal that is finished with a quality polish is the cherry on top that takes it to the next level. Think, taking your sundae from home-made to Max Brenner level.

Today’s piece of opal is a rub (pre-form) from a miner in Lightning Ridge. I got this piece when it had already been rubbed so I don’t know what it looked like in the rough but, holy cow, this color is something special.

My first impression of this opal is that it’s got incredible play of color with a nice, thick color bar. On the down side, it has a massive sand spot on the back that is undercutting the color.

How do I deal with an opal with a massive sand spot?

Sand spots are the bane of a cutter’s existence. Much like Bane (for all you Batman fans), this sand spot is massive, tricky, and a bit overbearing. I’ll have to forgo some of the color on that side to get a nice shape.

Undercutting the back of opal is a great technique for this kind of sand spot. It’s important to be cautious and take your time; what are your options? How creative can you get to rid your opal of pesky sand spots without losing color?

Once you’re happy with the shape, let’s move this opal on to the dop stick!

Why do you use wax for dopping and not something else?

I’ve been asked many times why I use this kind of wax over a hot glue gun or super glue. The answer is that it’s so much faster. It’s also more reliable.

Wax is ready to work with straight away as it sets so quickly. With glue, you run the risk of the stone being lopsided on the dop stick as it’s not malleable like wax is.

After taking this baby back to the wheel to polish it up, I’m over the moon with the result. Polishing opal brings out the incredible gem within.

This gem was an absolute pleasure to cut. It’s got a nice medium dome and a solid body. This gem black opal comes in at 5.78 carats and has a body tone of N3 and a brightness of B5; a real stunner.