Sun Lakes Rock, Gem and Silver Club learns about opals

Various shades of opals.

Various shades of opals.

Joe Schwab

Ron D’Angelo, a member of the Sun Lakes Rock Gem and Silver Club and I visited recently to introduce the opal class. Ron teaches the six week class and is very knowledgeable on the selection and process around building and finishing a jewel quality opal. Opals are extremely fragile but beautiful stones that form wherever silver is present with volcanic geyser action. Tiny cracks form in the indigenous rock and over thousands of years, tiny bits of silicon dioxide and water are forced into the cracks and form colorful tiny veins. Opals are commonly thought of as white translucent stone but come in a variety of shades down to deep black. Some form lines of color while others, individual sparkles of red, green, blue, aqua and purple.

While Australia was long thought of as the prime source of opals, they can be found many places in the United States including Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Montana and New Mexico, as well as many other foreign sources.

Opals are sensitive to heat and often lose their color when water is removed. Ron explained how opals are carefully cut with flat top and bottom then glued to a paper thin basalt on one side and a quartz cap on the top to protect the stone. Staying absolutely parallel to the color layers is essential or the color will disappear. These stones with a basalt bottom and a quartz cap are called triplets. Stones that have only the top quartz cap or the bottom basalt are called doublets. Once they are fitted with the proper layers they are ready for polishing. Dops are applied in order to more easily hold and position the stone for shaping and polishing. The polishing surface must also go through a process of preparation to distribute the diamond polishing material evenly. It is far too complicated to explain thoroughly in a small news article but attending the regular meetings held on the third Monday of each month will allow prospective students to see the results and talk with Ron.

Ron is seeking students for his six week class held at the Sun Lakes Country Club shop. One can develop the craft and make fine pieces of jewelry rivaling anything found in jewelry stores. The satisfaction that comes from creating your own work of art is a reward that cannot be bought at any price. Many students say they are very reluctant to give up a piece they have created, be it stone, jewelry, glass art or silver.

Regardless of which activity a person chooses to develop, Sun Lakes Rock, Gem and Silver Club offers the greatest variety. It is one of the best reasons to live in Sun Lakes. Most of us are fortunate to have a wealth of time on our hands. Up to date shops, tools and quality instructors like Ron D’Angelo help us use that time wisely and productively.

Winter is upon us and the cool weather and airy shops are inviting. Look us up at