Thursday, January 04, 2007

Fabulous Faux Opals

I love the look of opals, so I was very excited when I learned that it's possible to make faux opals from polymer clay.

(Actually, faux opals were one of my very first projects with clay-- maybe even the very first. The imitative techniques were that convinced me that this polymer clay stuff might be fun to play around with. I loved the faux opals, mother of pearl, abalone, jade-- and so many others, too!)

There's an old legend that opals are bad luck. Some versions of the legend say they're bad for everyone, others say they're just bad luck for those who don't have the opal as their birthstone. (But I have heard that you can get around this if someone gives you the opal as a gift. Buying an opal for yourself is a no-no. ) However, I haven't seen anything about getting bad luck by wearing a faux opal. ;o)

While I'm not a particularly strong believer in most legends of this type, I am somewhat deterred by the price of some real opals. ;o) Plus, it's nice to be able to make "opals" in whatever size and shape you like. It's also fun to tell people who admire the "opal" that you made it yourself-- from clay, of all things! (Of course, they may not believe you...)

I've read about numerous techniques for imitating opals-- some in books, some on-line. My favorite opal recipe from a book can be found in Irene Dean Semanchuk's beautiful Faux Surfaces in Polymer Clay, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in imitative techniques. For free (yay!) on-line tutorials, my favorite two (by other people) are Linda Geer's and Barbara Reider's versions.

After playing around with everything I was able to find about faux opals and tweaking things according to my tastes (and what I had in my supply cabinet), I put my own version of the technique in an on-line tutorial, which you can find here at Polymer Clay Web.

Here's a photo of some of the faux stones I've made with this technique:

Of course, with something like this, with all the translucency and layers of glitter, it looks better in person than in any photograph. I love the way the "fire" in even faux opals shifts as you turn them in your hand.

As you can probably tell from the photo, I'm especially fond of the pinkish/yellow-green-tinted opals, but you can make them in any color you like. I've made them with cotton candy pink and blue, peach, and other colors, too.

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