The Easy Breesy Stretch Bracelet

Stretch bracelet from the Petal Plush Pearls Collection by Arpaia Jewelry with cultured pearls, Swarovski crystal, and 22kt Gold accents.
“Water Roses” stretch bracelet from the Petal Plush Pearls Collection by Arpaia Jewelry with saltwater and freshwater cultured pearls, Swarovski crystal, and artisan crafted 22kt gold accents.

The wearable comfort of a stretch bracelet is undeniable, and its slip-on-and-off ease is a most desirable attribute. From casual to glam, the stretch bracelet makes little chore of putting on and taking off a bracelet.

The downside of no fumbling is well known: breakage inevitably occurs causing components to fly everywhere.

Overtime, stretchable stringing materials loose elasticity or get over-stretched and can tear, snap, or break.

Many jewelry designers choose not to include stretch bracelets in their collections because of durability issues. Personally, I did not start making stretch bracelets until very recently, after so many repeated requests by cherished clients.

To overcome my stubborn fear of breakage, I adopted the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Correct fit, gentle handling, proper care, and periodic restringing could counteract breakage woes.

Here are a few helpful hints designed to minimize risk of accidental breakage:

1. Good fit. A stretch bracelet should fit the wrist well. Stretch bracelets should not be tight or snug. Constant tension causes greater wear. The best fit is one that sustains no tension on the elastic core during normal wear. Also, the bracelet should not be too loose. Gaping bracelets are prone to catching on things and getting pulled during wear.

2. Roll on and off. The less stretch, the better. Roll the bracelet smoothly over the hand to put on and take off. Breakage often occurs when taking stretch bracelets on and off. I recommend to clients that they slip stretch bracelets on and off while leaning over a bed, so that if the elastic breaks, all components fall onto a soft area where they can be easily collected for restringing.

3. Gently clean stretch bracelets. Follow cleaning instructions of manufacturer/designer. In absence, a safe cleaning method is to gently wipe piece with a clean soft microfiber cloth after each wear.

4. Store stretch jewelry separately in a soft pouch away from other jewelry. All jewelry should be stored away from sunlight and other heat sources.

5. Restring stretch bracelets periodically. Examine stretch bracelets every time before putting on. If the cord appears slack or shows any other signs of wear, it should be restrung. Stretch bracelets that are worn often should be restrung at least annually if not more frequently. Elastic can dry out over time even when not worn, so all stretch bracelets should be restrung every few years. Craft stores typically carry stringing materials. For those who wish to restring themselves, stringing can be fun, awaken one’s creativity, and be a practical cost-saving approach especially with respect to very affordable pieces. I do recommend retaining the services of a qualified professional to restring more valuable pieces.

Proper Care for Ethiopian Opal Jewelry

IMG_3498.JPG – Version 2
14kt Gold and Sterling Silver Heart Pendant by David Nugent of Evensong Jewelry. Set with a natural Ethiopian opal cabochon by Robert Lang of Arpaia Lang. Before setting the stone, Robert applied a layer of dark blue enamel to inside bezel mounting – the dark background enhances opal’s play of color.

About Ethiopian Opal

Precious opal was discovered in Mezezo, Ethiopia back in the early 1990s, but it was not sufficiently stable for jewelry use due to cracking.

In 2008, Ethiopia’s Wollo province became a source of white precious opal and crystal opal, and in 2013, Wollo also became a producer of dark and black precious opal.

Gem quality opals from the Wollo province are more stable, and have been steadily increasing market share in the jewelry industry due to very attractive play of color and price point.

Precious opals from Australia and several other known sources originate in sedimentary rock. Ethiopian opals originate in volcanic rock. The more porous structure of Ethiopian opal absorbs water in a manner similar to that of a sponge, and this “hydrophane” property affects the transparency of Ethiopian opal when immersed in water.

Care of Ethiopian Opal

It is the hydrophane nature of Ethiopian opal that is pertinent to its care as a gemstone.

At GIA’s 96th Gemstone Gathering in Bangkok earlier this month, Jeffery Bergman, Director and founder of Primagem based in Thailand, presented an examination of Ethiopian opal  as relates to possible treatments. Bergman is an American gemstone dealer with 40 years experience in the mining, cutting, and the wholesaling and retailing of gemstones and fine jewelry.

After preliminary research, Bergman concluded that contact with oils or other liquids may result in a reduction of play-of-color and possible permanent damage to Ethiopian opal. In particular, Bergman advised that Ethiopian opal beads should be worn only over clothing and should not come in contact with skin where they can absorb perspiration.

The beauty and affordability of Ethiopian opal are compelling. As we learn more about this wondrous gem, we will learn more about its recommended care.

In the meantime, prudence dictates that Ethiopian opals are best mounted in protective settings that keep these gems away from direct contact with skin. Also, Ethiopian opals do not benefit from a water bath, and in fact, could be damaged from immersion.

As with all opals, Ethiopian opals should not be cleaned by steam, in an ultrasonic cleaner, or with any harsh cleaning agents. In addition, Ethiopian opals should not be cleaned with warm soapy water because of its hydrophane nature – cleaning an Ethiopian opal with soapy water or other liquids could cause contamination of the gem if any residue remains in the opal after drying. Trapped residue could reduce play of color, negatively affect transparency, change the gem’s bodycolor, or cause internal cracking.

After every wear, the best cleaning method for Ethiopian opal jewelry is to use a clean, soft, dry microfiber cloth to gently remove fingerprints, dirt, residue, and oils. 

Short-term contact with plain water does not seem to harm gem quality Ethiopian opals. If a hydrophane opal gets wet from rain or other cause, simply dry off surface with a clean microfiber cloth and then let the stone naturally air dry for 24 hours – any absorbed water will leave the stone and its play of color should be restored to its previous state without any cracking. Do not attempt to speed up the natural air-drying process by applying heat of any kind.

Click this link to view video of Jeffery Bergman’s presentation on “Opal Treatments: Facts, Fears & Fairytales.”

On a final note: This post is meant to be helpful on a topic of general interest and may contain unintended inaccuracies. It is expressly not intended to give advice about the care of any particular piece of jewelry, and as such, this post should not be relied upon for that purpose. Any questions about jewelry care should always be directed to the manufacturer or place of purchase, as these parties are in the best position to give advice about the care and cleaning of the jewelry and gemstones that they sell in the wholesale and/or retail markets.

All gemstone jewelry by Arpaia Jewelry comes with a microfiber cleaning cloth, and care instructions are provided at time of purchase. Click this link for more detailed information on jewelry care.

Precious Opals Need Moisture to Retain Lasting Beauty

“Opalescence” one of a kind necklace from Empress Couture by Arpaia Fine Jewelry with precious white opal beads & artisan crafted 22kt gold

Precious opal’s play of color defines it’s beauty.

Composed of up to 10% water, opal is a soft gem.

An essential part of loving care for opals is protection. Avoid circumstances and conditions that can cause opal to crack. Even dehydration (loss of moisture) can damage opal and result in “crazing” (tiny visible network of fractures).

Although damage in opal cannot be reversed, it is possible to help Australian and other sedimentary opals replenish moisture by soaking in a distilled water bath for at least 24 hours every 6 months. Keep in mind, however, that while this soaking technique might be suitable for loose opals, it is not always advisable with respect to opal jewelry, and in fact, could be destructive to the metal or other components, or to its construction.

CAVEAT: This post relates to the care of Australian opals and other opals that originate from sedimentary rock. Ethiopian opals originate in volcanic rock and are hydrophane in nature, which property affects transparency when the stone is immersed in water. As a result, to retain their beauty, Ethiopian opals should not be immersed in water or cleaned with water. Contact with oils or other liquids may result in a reduction of play of color to Ethiopian opals and possibly may permanently damage them because of their hydrophane nature. For further information on Ethiopian Opal, see the post on this blog relating to Proper Care for Ethiopian Opal Jewelry.

For more detailed guidelines on the care of opal jewelry, read our Newsletter:

Love Your Pearls for Lasting Beauty

One of a kind designed by Kimberly Arpaia - handmade Classic Collection bracelet with natural color cultured freshwater pearls
One of a kind designed by Kimberly Arpaia – handmade Classic Collection bracelet with natural color cultured freshwater pearls

Pearls are organic gems. Though delicate, fine quality pearls can retain their natural beauty for several generations with proper care to become treasured heirlooms. For helpful hints to keep your pearl jewelry looking well loved, read our recent newsletter on Pearl Care: