As far as precious gemstones are concerned, opals have a relatively sordid history. While they are not as precious as diamonds, opals are no less beautiful and have been used in jewelry for centuries. They’re even mentioned in texts from Pliny the Elder, a philosopher from the years 23 to 79 AD.
Opals come in a wide range of colors. White and green are by far the most common, while red and the fabled black opal are the rarest.
Opal is considered the birthstone of October. It is also the theme gift for the 14th and 18th wedding anniversaries. However, the popularity of the stone saw a marked decrease during The Middle Ages, and its popularity has never quite recovered.
In mystical circles, opal is considered a stone representing hope, innocence and purity. It has strong connotations of happiness, faithfulness, loyalty and confidence. All of these are in spite of its significant period of darker connotations.
Healing Powers of Opal
For those who believe in the healing power of stones, opal is good for eye infections and diseases, as well as the enhancement of other healing processes. In more esoteric circles, the opal was considered to grant the power of invisibility when wrapped in a bay leaf and carried in the hand. The Greeks believed it granted the power of prophecy. While it is unlikely that these beliefs are true, they are some of many mystical abilities the stone is believed to grant.
Opal and Luck
For much of its long history, opal was regarded as a lucky stone. People believed that a cut and polished opal would have the qualities of any other stone it shared a color with — a blue opal would be similar to sapphire, for example. Opal can be quite a difficult stone to work with, and it is easy to shatter when cutting or mounting in jewelry. Breaking an opal in the process of creating jewelry was once considered bad luck.
In Greek mythology, opals were considered the stone form of the tears that Zeus wept after the defeat of the titans. Indian lore considers it part of the Goddess of Rainbows after she turned to stone to avoid the romantic advances of other gods. Arabic lore holds that the stones fell from the sky in flashes of lightning, imbued forever with their fire from the fall.
Opal in Literature
The history of opal takes a darker turn in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Anne of Geierstein. In it, the titular character Anne wears an opal holding mystical properties. It flashed red when she was angered and sparkled with great beauty when she was in high spirits. Several drops of holy water splashed on the stone in the climax of the book, and soon after Anne took ill and died. This gave opals a negative connotation as demon stones.
After the publication of the novel, opals fell out of public favor. The stone began to be associated with bad luck and death. In Russia, people believed that the stone signified the evil eye. If a vendor had an opal in their wares, it was bad luck to purchase anything at all from them.
Opal has come back into favor in more recent times, but it has never entirely shaken the disfavor it once held. It is still a beautiful stone and quite common in jewelry around the world. However, it can never be said that opal is not a storied stone.
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*Disclaimer: This article is meant to serve only as an illustration of opinions and practices and should not be considered an endorsement of any kind. Any beliefs described here may not necessarily be true. The text above should not be considered a source of medical advice.