Opal is October’s birthstone. It’s the gemstone to be given to celebrate the 14th year of marriage. It’s name in Sanskrit is “Upala” and means precious stone. In Greek, the derivative is “Opalios”, which means “to see a change of color.”
Perhaps more than any other gemstone in history, Opal has been given a dark reputation that overshadows the glowing sparkle and mystery of this beautiful stone. Living in the 21st century, I’ve never heard that Opals are bad luck and find this to be curious indeed. It seems that there was a time when this was the common belief. Let’s look into this mystery a little more to see where this notion came from.
Centuries ago, Opal was a talisman of good luck.
The Romans thought it was a symbol of hope because Opals sparkle and shine like the rainbow. It was a gift of prophecy to the ancient Greeks, and the Arabians thought that they were made in flashes of lightening and then they rained down from the heavens to earth. The lore from the Middle Ages had the people believing that Opals were essential to maintain good eyesight and young women would wear them in their hair in order for the color of it not to fade. Perhaps this wonderful stone was so widely revered because of the way light magically plays with color when you gaze upon these gemstones. The Opal refracts light in different ways because of how it’s made of microscopic spheres of silica with spaces between them. Opals appear in all different colors because of this.
Where did the idea that it’s unlucky to wear an Opal come from?
The Opal’s reputation took a turn for the worse a little later in history. Due to a nasty rumor during the Dark Ages, it became associated with the Black Plague. It was believed that a victim’s Opal would go dull after dying from the dreaded disease. The more likely story was that the Opal simply deteriorated after the death of the plague sufferer because of the unstable nature of the stone.
Then there's a story of a Spanish king who gave an Opal ring to his queen. She died soon after. He then gave the same ring to his grandmother and low and behold, she died soon after too. He kept giving the ring away to various family members. He gave it to his sister who died, and then his sister-in-law who passed shortly thereafter too. Perhaps he had run out of people to give it to and finally he put the ring on his own finger and died. In reality, the family probably died of Cholera.
In 1829 Sir Walter Scott wrote a novel “Anne of Geierstein”. In this story, the heroine’s Opal changed color with her moods. Her Opal is then touched by holy water and discolors. After being accused of being a demon, she dies shortly thereafter. Historically this was probably the worst blow to the Opals’ reputation. This story affected public sentiment so drastically, that the Opal market crashed and prices of the lovely stone fell by 50%.
Last but not least, there’s one more theory about why Opals were rumored to be bad luck, especially if they weren’t your birthstone. It was an awful rumor spread by the diamond traders. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Opals began to gain back their popularity. Who could ignore the brilliance of these beautiful stones? The jealous diamond merchants started to get nervous about losing business to them. They once again started spreading the rumor that they were bad luck to prevent people from wanting to buy them.
Despite the ruinous reputation of their past, Opals are a loved and adored by millions throughout the world today. White Precious Opal is the best known variety and most widely used in jewelry. It’s multi colored fire is set off from a milky background making it a most attractive stone for jewelry designers and buyers alike. They split light into a rainbow of frequencies giving them an almost ethereal beauty. The energies of this gemstone are believed to radiate optimism, good humor, enthusiasm, imagination and creativity. I consider it good luck to own and wear an Opal. It's a magnificent gemstone full of brilliant sparkles of light and color.
Dare to Shine like an Opal!
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