It is a great privilege to be asked to design and make a bespoke and unique piece of jewellery. It's also a responsibility as it is so important to get it right! I'm very aware that the creation of such a special thing means putting into life the dreams and aspirations of someone, so this needs to be done very carefully.
There's a lot to consider. Not just the size and shape but how that relates to the wearer - is it proportionately correct? What about their style? Jewellery needs to reflect this accurately and I think that a positive outcome is not only that the wearer loves their jewellery, but that they feel fabulous and special when they wear it.
If you look after your jewellery, it will last forever, so - as a silversmith and jewellery designer with a wealth of experience with gemstones - I thought I'd pass on to you a few very important do's and don't's on how to care for your Opal jewellery. I hope you like it.
Caring for your opals: Opals are soft stones, similar in hardness to turquoise, lapis lazuli and labradorite and are actually not quite as fragile as some people think. However cleaning and caring for your jewellery depends on the type of opal you own, so here's some tips:
Solid Opals have the same hardness of glass and unlike doublets and triplets cannot be damaged by water. It is therefore safe to clean them with warm water, a mild detergent and a soft toothbrush or cloth.
Doublets and Triplets are made from layers which have been glued together prolonged exposure to water will cause a lifting of these layers. Your opal will then become grey or foggy in appearance. Just to reassure you that it is prolonged exposure that causes the damage and washing your hands or wearing your jewellery in the shower or the rain will be okay. To clean, just wipe with a damp cloth. Never soak or immerse in water. But, whatever type of opal you own...
If you need to store your opal for a long period of time just wrap in cotton wool which has been soaked in a few drops of water and place in a sealed plastic bag. (The water will prevent water coming out of the stone should it be exposed to environments with very low humidity). The good news is that opals should be worn as often as possible. Humidity from the atmosphere and from the skin of the wearer provides the moisture this precious gem needs.
I hope that helps
Kate Buchanan-Dunne is an artist, designer and silversmith based in Shropshire.