If you read my post about unique and understated engagement rings, you’ll notice that there are a few opals on that list. For any of you who are traditionalists, this may be a bit of a surprise. After all, aren’t opals supposed to be bad luck?
Why are opals considered bad luck?
Opals have quite a… let’s say colorful, history. In the Middle Ages, opals were actually considered to bring great luck, as the stone contains all of the colors. I’ll buy it. So, despite a few missteps (bloodletting, the Malleus Maleficarum), I’m going to say that medieval folk were right about opals.
There were rumors during the Middle Ages that the opal represented the evil eye, due to it’s similar appearance to the eyes of cats, and other nocturnal animals. And some folks did attribute strange powers to opals, but the prevailing idea was that this gem was precious and pure.
But, of course, something must have happened throughout the years to shift the tide of public (well, European) opinion on this lovely gem. That something was the 1829 publication of Sir Walter Scott’s Anne of Geierstein. A character called Lady Hermione, who was more or less a fairy princess of sorts, is essentially disenchanted and turned to dust when a few drops of holy water are sprinkled on the dazzling opal she always wears. That’s it. One small passage in a novel, and suddenly opals were on the outs.
Likely, the opal was chosen as the stone here because of their beauty, but also because of their sensitivity to water. Opals actually have a pretty high water content, as compared to other gems. It was probably not the intention of Sir Walter Scott to start an anti-opal movement, but the Georgian era wasn’t exactly known for it’s sensibility…and once the Victorians started reading this… well, here we are now.
So, wait, opals really aren’t bad luck?
- Arabic legends say opals fall from the sky when lightning flashes
- The ancient Greeks believed opals gave them the gift of prophecy, and guarded them from disease
- Europeans had attributed properties like hope, purity and truth before superstitions took over
- Opals are often considered the most magical of gems, because they can show all colors
- The Romans valued opals so much that a Roman Senator named Noni actually opted to be exiled, rather than sell his precious stone to Marc Antony
- Shakespeare even described opals as, “that miracle and queen of gems” in Twelfth Night
- German and Nordic women wore opals, as they were said to be protective against sleet, wind, rain and snow
- At one point, opals were thought to preserve the color of blonde hair…. sure?
So, why would I want an opal engagement ring?
Why wouldn’t you want an opal engagement ring? These gems are gorgeous! They’re also more cost effective than diamonds, so you can have a larger stone without breaking the bank. Opals look fabulous in any metal, and will pair well with pretty much any gemstone.
Here are a few beauties I’ve grown attached to…
Opal Tanzanite Trio by Jennie Kwon
Myths about opals
There are a few myths about this difficulty of maintaining this stone, from opals needing to be soaked in water, to opals cracking easily, but there is little truth. Opals have a higher water content than most gems, but this is something that occurs during the stone’s formation. They don’t need to be “rehydrated,” or oiled in any way. The stone also doesn’t crack easily with normal wear – they’ve got a similar hardness to that of glass.
So, basically, while people seem to want to manufacture reasons to avoid opals, there’s not a lot of basis in this aversion. Ancient cultures prized this precious stone, and there’s no real reason why we shouldn’t as well!