Opal is one of the most sought-after stones in the world.
This relatively soft mineral comes in a wide variety of colors, but the most famous are white precious opals with their internally colored fire.
They’re an eye-catching piece, but like any stone which finds itself with so much beauty, there’s some superstition surrounding opal meaning.
Let’s dissect the myth of the opal and see if we can’t dig up its origins for the discerning buyer.
The Composition of Opal
Opal is comprised of silica with some water content. Different varieties will have different amounts of water in them, but as a general rule what most people think of as precious opal is around 6-10% water.
Precious opal has a play in color when the stone is in the light. There’s a very large price difference between different opal stones since each is a special case of its own.
This difference in gemstones has made opal the subject of a lot of speculation over the years.
The Origin of the Giving Myth
Perhaps due to their amazing colors and the tendency of the stones to change over time due to their moisture content, opal has been at the center of more than one superstition.
There’s a big draw to the myth of opals.
One of the most telling of the superstitions which surround them is based in the giving of opals as gifts.
The biggest myth is that opals should never be worn if they’ve been given as a gift. The idea being that if someone has been given an opal for free, it will bring bad luck to them.
Indeed, it’s a bit telling that supposedly if you’re given an opal you are supposed to give the gift-giver some money in return in order to ward off bad luck. While this might seem like something out of a gem dealer’s dream, it actually seems to stem from a couple of main points.
First of all, opal is notoriously hard to work with, precious or not. Any lapidary artist who’s worked with the material will tell you that it’s prone to a lot of problems which simply don’t happen with most stones.
Their mystical appearance and difficulty to use has led to them being used in fiction, which is where opals were first associated with bad luck.
The book Anne of Geierstein featured a character with a “given” opal. It doesn’t end well for Anne.
Opal rings, in particular, have garnered something of a bad reputation.
This is partially due to the fact that there were a couple of loosely related historical incidences which involved opal rings. It also has to do with De Beers Diamond Company.
In the early 1900s, opals were being imported in vast quantities. This threatened the diamond trade, and De Beers did their usual: they ran a vast smear campaign centered on opals.
If you weren’t already aware, diamonds are the most commonly used stones in engagement rings. When opals began to threaten the diamond cartels, things went as they usually do (aka smear campaign on opals).
Most jewelers were willing to go along with it since opals are hard to work with since they can crack with a limited amount of pressure applied to them compared to stones like diamonds.
Of course, it’s also no coincidence that opals are often paired with diamonds, which are rumored to ward off the bad luck associated with the stones.
Before the aforementioned novel and the smear campaign, opals were often considered to be good luck stones. These events are probably what inspired the “bad luck” myths of opals.
Most people these days have rightly disregarded the rumors of opals being bad luck and instead go with the stones they favor. Since each opal is unique, it’s nearly impossible to simply say that you don’t like them.
It’s safe to say you can definitely go with an opal engagement ring if that’s your fancy.
Opal Meaning and Superstition
Despite the relatively modern myths which surround these beautiful stones, they actually have a long and storied history of meaning.
Among those who believe in the mystical powers of stones opals often have the following attributed to them:
- Enhanced vision
- Release of inhibitions
- Strengthened memory
- Increased self-worth
- Bringing loyalty, faithfulness, and spontaneity
While the modern traditions involved with crystal healing are a bit different from the older associations, they clearly show that the stones are something special.
In ancient times, precious opal was considered to be a good luck charm quite frequently. Everyone from the Romans to the people living in the Middle Ages found the charming stones to be exactly the thing needed to bring fortune to the holder.
In modern times, opals are once again becoming quite popular. These timeless stones can still hold their own against the more traditional varieties of precious gems like diamonds and rubies.
Despite all of this, some superstitions persist among some people.
The following negative qualities are often attributed to opal:
- They should be worn only by those who are born in October
- They lose their shine when their owner passes
- Useless as a charm to those who are selfish
- Will lead to being widowed early if used in an engagement ring
Are any of these true?
Most likely not, but it’s always good to understand both sides of the coin when you’re looking at precious stones.
The Unluckiest Thing? Not Having Opals
Probably the only real opal meaning is that not having them is definitely worse than having some jewelry set with them.
They’re beautiful, unique stones that have withstood negative press for some time, and they’re becoming popular once more.
No reason to shy away from them, even if you hold to superstitions about stones. Keep in mind that most of the negative qualities attributed to opals can be found within the last century.
Enjoy this article? Take a look here for some other great gift ideas.