How to Clean Sterling Silver & Opals

by Michelle Miley

Even when you are careful, sterling silver and opals can both get dirty and may need to be cleaned. It is best to take these pieces to a professional jeweler if they are extremely dirty or have been accidentally exposed to a chemical that could potentially harm them. Occasional cleaning at home, however, is adequate to keep opals and sterling silver looking their best under normal wear and conditions.


Look carefully at your opal from the side to determine if the stone is solid or layered. Doublet and triplet opals are stones that were too thin to be used for jewelry and have been layered to make them thicker. Layered opals should never be submersed in water.

Squeeze two or three drops of mild soap into ½ cup of warm water and agitate slightly to create a cleaning solution.

Drop solid opals into the cleaning solution and swish them around a bit to remove any dirt. For layered opals, dip a soft cloth or scrap of silk into the cleaning solution and gently rub it on the stone.

Rinse solid opals in warm water and layered opals by gently wiping them with a cloth dipped in plain warm water. Dry the opal with a soft cloth after rinsing; make sure it is thoroughly dry before storing it.

Sterling Silver

Spray sterling silver jewelry with household glass cleaner. If your sterling silver jewelry contains opals or other sensitive stones, spray the glass cleaner on a soft cloth or soft tooth brush rather than directly onto the jewelry.

Rub the silver gently with the cleaner-soaked cloth or toothbrush until all of the dirt and tarnish has been removed.

Rinse the silver in warm water to remove the glass cleaner and dry the piece with a soft cloth. If the jewelry contains delicate stones, rinse it by wiping it with a soft cloth wet with plain warm water instead of submersing the jewelry.

Dry the silver thoroughly with a soft cloth and polish with a polishing cloth to restore shine.

Items you will need

  • Small bowl
  • Mild soap
  • Warm water
  • Soft, clean cloth or silk scrap
  • Soft towel
  • Household glass cleaner
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush (optional, for silver only)
  • Silver polishing cloth


  • Avoid wearing opals in the shower or when washing dishes. This may seem like a convenient way to wash the stone, but temperature variations in the water can crack or damage it.


  • Do not immerse double or triple opals that have been stacked together to increase thickness. Do not use toothbrushes or abrasive chemicals on opals.

About the Author

Writing professionally since 2008, Michelle Miley specializes in home and garden topics but frequently pens career, style and marketing pieces. Her essays have been used on college entrance exams and she has more than 4,000 publishing credits. She holds an Associate of Applied Science in accounting, having graduated summa cum laude.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images