Opals: Inspiration and Superstition

Recently a dear family friend gave me two pairs of opal earrings. It's hard for me to pick a favorite gemstone- but it is easy for me to tell you that opals would be a top contender on my list. They've always been a favorite of mine because of their seemingly magical play-of-color. Its easy to get lost the the kaleidoscopic flashes found within an opal.  I tend to wear the stone rather frequently and when I do, I encounter a lot of people who ask me if I'm worried it will bring me bad luck. It is a fairly common superstition that if opal is not your birthstone, you should not wear it due to the bad fortune it will bring. Opals have a long and fascinating history, and even today the folklore behind opals has left them with quite a stigma. It all started with Sir Walter Scott- a writer in the 1800's. In his novel, Anne of Geierstein, he tells the story of a woman who wore a radiant opal in her hair. As the story goes, holy water was dropped onto the opal causing it to dull and loose all of its vibrant color. The night that the opal lost its magic, the woman fainted, was carried to bed, and the next morning all that was left of her was a pile of ashes. After the novel was published, the European market for opals took a hard hit since readers interpreted the book to mean that opals were cursed or unlucky. In addition to the novel, there is the story of King Alphonso XII of Spain. He apparently presented his wife with an opal ring, and shortly after accepting the gift, his wife unexpectedly died. Before his wife's funeral, he gave the same ring to his sister. She too died not long after coming into possession of the ring. The ring then made its way to his sister-in-law, who passed away after three months of owning the jewelry. Then King Alphonso, not heeding warning or suspecting the ring of the bad fortune, decided to wear the opal himself. I think you see where this is going! King Alphonso also died shortly after adorning himself with the ring. Fortunately later in history, Queen Victoria helped to repopularize the stone with Europeans and Americans. Historically, opals are more associated with good luck than with bad luck. The 1800's were a small hiccup or blemish in their otherwise long history of being a stone of beauty, luck, and preciousness. The word opal comes from the Sanskrit word "Opalus", which means "precious stone". It also stems from the Greek word "Opallios", which means "seeing a change of color". The largest source of opal is Australia, and there are many fascinating Aboriginal tales about the spiritual value of the stone. Throughout history, artists and writers have compared opals to galaxies, fireworks, eruptions, heaven, lightning, etc. History aside though, I'll tell you why opal is one of my favorite stones and what qualities I think it has! To start with, opal contains a higher percentage of water in its composition than many other stones. Without water, the stone will dull, dry, and crack. Similarly, as humans, we are composed largely of water and also need it to survive. I find that I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually the best version of myself when I am around a body of water. And because of that, I feel a special connection to opal. It is also said since opal contains so much water, that it is a great stone for tackling changes. Water will forge its own way around an obstacle- such as a rock or tree. I remember as a child trying to build dams in the little creek at St. Teresa. I could build a dam, but the creek would just change its path and keep on flowing to the ocean. So because opal is composed of so much water, it is said that the stone helps you overcome obstacles in life and keep on moving forward. Lastly, because of the painterly, random, and childlike blotches of color strewn throughout an opal, it is said that the stone fosters imagination, creativity, and spontaneity. As an artist and wanna-be gemologist, I can't argue with those properties! So that's a little food for thought on one of my favorite gemstones! Can't wait to use some opals in my own Sea + Stone jewelry. And a BIG thank you to Murl for my gorgeous earrings. I love wearing them, and am enjoying the happy vibes and good luck that they bring me!


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