I’ve been in the jewelry business for over thirty three years and since nearly day one, I have heard from customers of their fear of the bad luck from opals. Rarely do I show a piece of opal jewelry without a comment about how it is bad luck if you are not born in October or one of the other long passed on myths. However, they are just that, myths.
Enough with the bad rap this stone has taken and being born in October it’s even more important to me. Through this blog, I think it will be interesting to get to the heart of these myths and hopefully debunk the stories which have for so long haunted the beautiful opal stone.
Nearly every gemstone was thought to have mythical powers at one time. For example, the Amethyst was believed to have the ability to keep one from getting drunk while consuming alcohol and the Ruby was said to have the ability to inspire courage, bring prosperity, and stir passion. I would bet that most people would find the lore interesting but pretty much pass it off as that. Not so for the poor opal.
Opals have a very long and complicated history with many myths attached to the magnificent stone. In medieval times, all blonde haired maidens wanted a necklace made of opals, as a guarantee to prevent their hair from fading. Among the ancients, opal was a symbol of fidelity and assurance. In his time of reign, Julius Caesar established opal as a precious gemstone for the Romans, believing the opal was a combination of the beauty of all precious stones, a token of hope and purity They ranked opal second only to emeralds, and carried opal as a good luck charm or talisman because it was believed that like the rainbow, opal brought its owner good fortune. In the days when Rome spread her legions across Europe and Africa, a Roman Senator by the name of Nonius opted for exile rather than sell his valuable opal to Marc Antony who wanted to give it to his famous lover Cleopatra. Among other ancients, the early Greeks believed the opal bestowed powers of foresight and prophecy upon its owner. In later history, it became associated with love and passion, as well as desire and eroticism. It was seen as a seductive stone that intensifies emotional states and releases inhibitions. Others believe that wearing an opal would bring one about loyalty and faithfulness.
Let’s take a look at why the superstition of the opal came into being. The myth is believed to be the fault of one man, Sir Walter Scott and his bestselling novel, Anne of Geuerstein, written in 1829. In the story, we follow the life events of Lady Hermione, who is falsely accused of being a demoness and dies shortly after a drop of holy water accidentally falls on her opal and destroys its color, fire, and sparkle. Furthermore, when Lady Hermione, wore an enchanted opal in her hair, it gave off fiery red flashes when she was angry and it sparkled beautifully when she was happy. Because of this story, opals gained a wide reputation for bad luck. Mistakenly, the public took this to mean that this genius author was warning of the bad luck an opal can bring. In addition, in much earlier days, when jewelers did not understand how to handle and work the stones properly, the stones would often dry out and break while being cut, polished or mounted. Naturally, this was considered bad luck. So, they stopped buying the beautiful gemstone altogether. Thanks to Sir Walter Scott and other various happenings, the European opal market was destroyed for almost 50 years without any real merit. Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III of France, refused to wear the stones, as did many others, some well-read and some not so well read.
Thankfully, nearly 50 years later in 1877, an amazing black opal was found in South Wales, Australia. The opal market was finally revived. These black opals took the world by storm. The discovery of these opals in solidified Australia as the principal source of black and white opal, a fact still true today. Many do not realize that the myth of the opal being bad luck is not warranted by any sort of evidence or occurrence or that the discovery of the black opal destroyed these negative notions over 100 years ago.
So as we enter the month of October, for which Opal is the birthstone, it’s time to embrace the beauty and uniqueness of this gemstone. Because of all the potential colors and patterns no two opals are ever a like. They are like small paintings with varying patterns and colors.
We own some of the most magnificent opals, including black opals from the famous Lightning Ridge mines in Australia. This extremely rare black opal ring displays the kaleidoscopic color for which Lightning Ridge opals are heralded. The 3.60-carat opal is perfectly accented by a halo of colored gemstones that mirror its iridescent blue and green hues, including Tsavorite garnets, blue sapphires, and dazzling white diamonds. Similarly, this black Lightning Ridge opal pendant necklace displays a stunning play of color. A magnificent 20.56-carat opal is the star of this pendant necklace, catching every vivid blue and green hue. The extremely rare stone is set in sparkling white diamonds and 18K yellow gold and platinum.
The remarkable range of colors that opals possess can also be found in this mesmerizing 540-carat graduated opal necklace. At a remarkable size, each opal exhibits high levels of translucence and beauty. To find 31 all-natural, matching beads of this size and quality is extraordinary beyond compare. The extraordinary gems are separated by white gold and diamond rondells, while a pavé diamond ball clasp finishes the elegant piece. Undeniably, this necklace displays some of the finest opals known.