November Blog - Debunking Classic Opal Superstitions

Debunking Classic Opal Superstitions

With Halloween just completed, and with the Christmas holidays rapidly approaching, it seems appropriate to take the time and dispel many of the historic superstitions surrounding precious opals. In this way, the opal gifts you give for the holidays will become less mysterious and more treasured.

Opals have been treasured and revered throughout history. However, not all opal history has been entirely positive. In fact, it’s been a rocky road at some points. There are numerous tales of bad luck & stories of superstition that have unfairly given Opals a bad name.

From time immemorial all gemstones have had certain philosophical attributed to them. For example: Diamonds are said to improve the wearer’s courage & fortitude while also bringing victory & good fortune, Pearls will bring health & long life while warding off evil and Rubies will offer peace of mind, courage & insight.

Opals on the other hand have had mixed reviews down through history. A brief list of the different rumors:

  • White Opals are unlucky unless worn by someone born in October or with Diamonds.
  • Very unlucky in an engagement ring.
  • Opals will lose its shine if the owner dies.
  • Renders the wearer invisible
  • Improves eyesight.
  • Will help blondes keep their hair color longer.
  • Will turn pale if in the presence of poison.
  • Black Opals hold great luck and fortune
  • Useless as a charm to someone who is selfish.
  • If used for good, opals offer the power of prophecy
  • Superstitions in medieval Europe circulated attributing evil powers and maladies to the colorful stone.

Opal was also tied to the Black Plague, an affliction that struck in the middle of the 14th Century, ultimately eradicating more than a third of Europe’s population and much more in neighboring territories. During the decimation of Europe by the Black Death, it was rumored that an opal worn by a patient was aflame with color right up to the point of death, and then lost its brilliance after the wearer died. During the late 18th and 19th centuries opal found association, with pestilence, famine and the fall of monarchies.

Sadly, because they are so misunderstood, in some realms Opals have had malevolent superstition attached to them. Witches and sorcerers supposedly used black opals to increase their own magical powers or to focus them like laser beams on people they wanted to harm. Medieval Europeans dreaded the opal because of its resemblance to “the Evil Eye”, and it’s alleged superficial likeness to the optical organs of cats, toads, snakes, and other common creatures with diabolical affiliations.

In the eleventh century, Bishop Marbode of Rennes wrote of Opal, “…Yet ’tis the guardian of the thievish race; It gifts the bearer with acutest sight; But clouds all other eyes with thickest night.” This is thought to be based on the idea that opal granted its bearer with invisibility, therefore it was a talisman for thieves, spies and robbers.

In 1829, Sir Walter Scott published his novel, Anne of Geuerstein. The tragic main character, Lady Hermione, perished soon after a drop of water touched her opal and drained its color. His readers believed Sir Scott was warning of the perils of wearing opal. In fact, reports estimate that within months of the book's release the demand for opals dropped by 50%.

Empress Eugenie, received many opal gifts from her husband Napoleon III. However, Eugenie's strong suspicions against opal, led to a rapid decline in demand for opals. Worried that they would lead to her death, she refused to wear them.

However, on the brighter side, fear and antipathy of the opal is counter-balanced with folklore casting the stone as a symbol of hope, innocence, and purity.

Romans considered opals the ultimate gemstone, as they harnessed every gemstone color within one stone and the Greeks also fell in love with white opal, believing that they protected their wearers from illness and opened the third eye to receive visions and prophecies.

It is the Romans who established this stone as a precious stone. They would get them from trading with the Middle East, and believed they came from India; though it is much more likely that they came from a nearby mountain range called Czernowitz, in the country now known as Slovakia.

In ancient times, Hungarian mines supplied Europe with Opals, including a stone for the crown of a Roman Emperor.

A different faction of European writers and poets of the Middle Ages sang the opal’s praises, claiming it had curative effect on bad eyes, protected children from predatory animals, banished evil, and made entertainments, friendships, and romances much more intense and enjoyable.

Discovery and importation into Europe of Opals from Australia in the late 1800’s changed everything.

Queen Victoria helped to reverse the bad press surrounding Opals as she became a lover of Opal and was known to wear Opals throughout her reign. She routinely gave opals to her daughters as gifts.

Let us finish here by decreeing that none of the alleged negative conditions attributed throughout history have any connection at all to the fine, attractive, glorious, precious opals that are found in beautiful British Columbia Canada. Rest assured, your purchase and subsequent gifting to the one you love will be held as a positive, heartfelt keepsake for generations to come. Come visit Canadian Opals website now to find your best Christmas gift ever.