Posted by Erin on 6/10/2018 to Articles
During this week's official debut of Australian Green Opal and our showcase of all things Silicate, it seems the time is right to share some fun facts, fictions, and historical tidbits (mostly morbid) tied to the stone.
It's worth noting that most of this lore is associated with precious opals (you know, the ones with fire, and flash, and play of color, and fancy names for patterns?). That being said, we'd be doing our education a grave disservice if we didn't dip our toes into the topic.
An FYI - Precious vs. Common
There are two categories for Opal - Precious and Common. Precious Opals (think Black Opal, Ethiopian, Fire Opal) exhibit the characteristics most associate with Opal. Thee term "Common" Opal is a bit of a disservice, for example, high quality Blue Peruvian Opal can command quite a price in its own right, although it isn't a "Precious" Opal. All Opals have a Silicate mineral structure which makes them much less dense, and also much softer than most other stone types. Common or Precious, be gentle with your Opals.
Perhaps the most widely known piece of Opal mythology has to do with Opals being bad luck. Let's break it down.
Bad Luck for Jewelers
This probably has more to do with the fragile nature of the stone. Whether a lapidarist or a jeweler, you'll need to handle an opal with considerably more care, than, say, a diamond. King Louis VI was not very sympathetic to a goldsmith who fractured a stone while setting it, and the unfortunate goldsmith lost his hands. (Warned you, morbid.) This is arguably the only myth with any facts to back it up.
Bad Luck for Venice
When the plague hit Venice in the 14th century, rumors abounded that an opal worn by a plague patient would flame as their illness raged and then lose all color at the time of death. It's worth noting that the desperate Venetians also blamed heretics and Jews for the illness as well.Science has since given us a little more information on bacteria and disease transmission, and it seems safe to say that Opals had as much causal link to plague as Jews and heretics, which is to say, none.
Bad Luck for Royals
A single Opal ring was reputed to kill five members of the Spanish royal family by means of a mysterious illness. While the ring in question was a gift from the jilted lover of King Alfonzo to his bride, historians believe that the deaths had nothing to do with the ring being poisoned, cursed, or just generally bad luck. Cholera was running through the country at the time and some estimates have the death at 50% of the Spanish population. Scholar Isidore Kozminsky acknowledges that metal and stone can attract and retain energies that harmed those who received it from his hand.
Bad Luck Birthstone
The "bad luck birthstone" was born of a novel written by Sir Walter Scott - there was a reading comprehension issue and the mis-reading of the novel is a fun story in its own right, as well as a powerful testimony to the power of the pen, In a single year, the market price for Opals dropped by half, and the market suffered for decades.
Bad, Bad, Bad
When incredible Opals were discovered in Australia in the 1890's, it's widely accepted that diamond traders perpetuated myths, rumors and falsehoods about the stone in order to protect their livelihood. Queen Victoria amassed and paraded a stunning personal collection of Opal Jewelry, and was likely the greatest contributing factor to the Opal's return to fashion and favor.
But it's not ALL BadWOW. So, this blog got long. We'll have to do a Part 2 on this sometime in the future. I'm planning to track down Kozminsky's text, so hopefully I can bring you some more gems in the future!
In 1922, Isidore Kozminsky's book "The Magic and Science of Jewels and Stones", the author discussed powerful positive anecdotes related to the stone, and claims that the Opal has been among the most unfairly maligned in history.
- Erin, Dakota Stones
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