The Mysteries of Opal
Opal is the national gemstone of Australia, where 97% of the world's opal is mined. Opal is an amorphous type of silica, essentially a mineral-like entity and not actually a mineral. Amazingly, anywhere between 3% and 21% of an opal's weight is actually water.
The internal make-up of opal makes it diffract light and depending on several factors, it can take on a variety of colors. The fascinating array of colors include (are not limited to) a mixture of white, orange, red, yellow, green, blue, rose, pink, brown, black and even clear shades. Of these shades, white and green is the most common, whereas red on black is the rarest colorization.
Just one look at the multicolored, patterned inner of a stunning and spectacular opal can easily reveal why opal has been at the heart of countless fables throughout history. Because of its distinctive and unique appearance, there are many ancient myths surrounding opal's magical properties, with some beliefs still existing today.
Ancient Opal Myths
During the Middle Age, opals had become a treasured gem. They were highly valued and often placed within lucky talismans. People were enthralled by the wide variety of colors that could be contained within a single stone. It was believed that opal wearers would be granted the virtues and properties of all the gemstone colors trapped within. It was also believed that anyone who wrapped their opal in a bay leaf would gain powers of invisibility.
In ancient Greece, the opal gem was 'The Stone of Prophecy' and it was believed to grant its owner great wisdom and foresight. The ancient Greeks believed that opal stones were created from Zeus's tears. The tears of joy were morphed into fiery opals after his triumphant victory over the Titans. In vain, the Greeks had worn the teary Opals with belief that they would be able to fend off grey hair and baldness, while maintaining everlasting blonde hair.
In ancient India, opals were thought to have originated from the Goddess of Rainbows. As punishment for running away from prurient and carnal advances from other male gods, she was turned into opal stone. Meanwhile, in Arabic mythology, opals were believed to have been placed on earth by way of fierce lightning, which explains why they have such fiery insides.
The Curses of Opal
Not all the myths of opal are innocent and romantic. There are also stories of Opal that carry the morbidity of grave curses. During the 18th Century, the Spanish King, Alfonso XII presented an opal ring to his wife, Mercedes, who had died unexpectedly just afterwards. Just before her funeral, the king gave the ring to his sister, Maria del Pilar. A few days after his sister received the opal ring, she mysteriously passed away too. King Alfonso then decided to present the ring to his sister-in-law, Princess Christina and she too suffered death too. Shocked by these series of fatalities, Alfonso then decided to wear the ring himself, which resulted in his own death shortly afterwards. Fearing that the opal ring was cursed, Queen Regent decided to have it attached it to a gold chain and placed on the neck of the Virgin Almudena, located in Madrid.
Modern Opal Superstitions
Today, some people still believe that opals should only be worn as October's birthstone, because those not born in October could be plagued by evil spirits and bad fortune. The origins of this bizarre myth, was a result of the 1829 novel, 'Anne of Gierstei' by Walter Scott. The heroine of this story found that her soul had been trapped inside a fiery opal stone; the opal had later become symbolic and represented her misfortunes. Shortly thereafter, many fans and critics started the myth that opals can have an evil influence over its owner. Owing to the negative rumors surrounding opal, prices and value of opal were greatly reduced during this time. It's amazing to think that this bizarre myth is still in existence today.
Another common misconception of opal is that its colors are responsive to one's mood and body temperature. This is completely false; the color of opal will not alter through heat, although different colors and hues can show in different lighting or viewpoints. This color changing optical illusion is a direct result of opal's captivating structure and is referred to as
play of color'.