Opals - Mysteries, Histories and Folklore
Throughout history the Opal has been beloved and feared. According to the GIA, "The ancient Greeks believed opals gave their owners the gift of prophecy and guarded them from disease." (Gia.edu) Europeans considered the Opal a symbol of hope, purity, and truth. However, there has been just as much fear as love. One case in particular increased the superstitions surrounding opals and bad luck.
According to MacsOpals.com "In the late 19th Century, Alfonzo XII fell madly in love with a beautiful aristocrat named the Comtesse de Castiglione. The Comtesse reciprocated the King’s affection, but months before the pair were to wed the faithless Alfonzo married another woman, the Princess Mercedes. Vowing to get even, the Comtesse sent the couple a wedding present in the form of a magnificent opal set in a huge ring of the purest gold. The princess was immediately smitten by the gift and insisted that her husband slip it on her finger. He obliged, and two months later the princess mysteriously died.
After the funeral Alfonzo gave the ring to his grandmother, Queen Christina, who almost immediately thereafter also expired. After that the ring passed to Alfonzo’s sister, the Infanta Maria del Pilar. Maria died as well, apparently victim to the same weird illness that had taken the other two women. The ring was up for grabs yet again, and when Alfonzo’s sister-in-law expressed an interest, he let her have it with the usual result.
Deeply depressed by then, the King decided to end it all by slipping the ring on his own finger, just as Cleopatra had embraced the asp to terminate her own misery." (macsopals.com)
The GIA says that the superstition claiming that if you wear an Opal (the October Birthstone) but were not born in October it will bring you bad luck is connected to "a novel written in the 1800s (Anne of Geierstein by Sir Walter Scott), and not from any ancient belief or experience."
Queen Victoria enjoyed wearing Opals. When a large opal field was discovered in the 1870s in Queensland, Australia, Queen Victoria tried to lift the veil of superstition surrounding the opal. Her love of opals did bring about a small revival but the superstitions still lingered.
Believe the folklore or not, the opal has had a unique history and it is magical to look at with its mesmerizing color play. Do you have any Opals in your collection? If so is it your birthstone?
For more info on Opals:
- Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry 1840 - 1950 by C. Jeanenne Bell, G. G.