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Oct 3

October's Birthstone

Gem
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Black Opal
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“Now the melancholy God protect thee, and the tailor make thy garments of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is opal.” ~ Twelfth Night, or What You Will, William Shakespeare, 1601-2

The changing colors of the opal make it one of the most striking of gems. However, the opal's undeserved modern reputation for bad luck is sometimes credited to Sir Walter Scott's 1829 novel "Anne of Geierstein." In this story, the beguiling Lady Hermione wears a dazzling opal in her hair. The beautiful iridescent stone sparkles spectacularly when she is in fine humor, but flares red when she is not. Later when her opal is touched by holy water, it discolor, and she is accused of being a demon and dies shortly after! Along with other market forces, the public was so affected by this story that the opal market actually crashed and prices dropped by 50 percent! The discovery of an amazing black opal found in Lightning Ridge Australia in 1877 revived the stone's reputation.💎

Gemstones have played various roles in the myths and legends of human cultures throughout history. Some tell a story or are believed to have special powers, but all of them share a common beauty and appear in every colour of the rainbow.

 

In ancient times, the opal was known as the Queen of Gems because it encompassed the colors of all other gems.

Many considered opal to be beneficial to the eye and wore it to cure eye diseases. Some even believed it could render the carrier invisible. Supposedly, carrying an opal wrapped in a fresh bay leaf would keep others from seeing you. This superstition earned opal the popular designation of patronus furum, Latin for “patron of thieves.”

Australia’s Lightning Ridge is known for its rare and stunning black Opals. The ideal black opal is one that displays broad patterns covering the surface, with all the colors of the rainbow, including red. 

The name opal is thought to be derived from the Sanskrit upala, meaning “precious stone,” and later the Greek derivative “Opallios,” meaning “to see a change of color.”

In modern times, however, opals obtained a reputation for a stone of bad luck.   Interestingly, the origin of this unfortunate reputation and myth is attributed to Sir Walter Scott!  His bestselling novel, Anne of Geuerstein, written in 1829, tells the story 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.

 

The reading public carelessly took this to mean that the popular and revered author was warning of the bad luck an opal can bring.   Within months of the novel being published, the opal market crashed and prices plummeted down 50%.   Although undeservedly, Sir Walter Scott is often credited with destroying the European opal market for almost 50 years. 

In 1912, tourmaline was added as an alternative birthstone to opal as October's birthstone.

For thirteen other mysterious and possibly cursed gemstones, click the black opal!