When opals began to gain popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries, diamond traders became nervous about losing business. Jealous merchants began spreading rumors that opals were bad luck to prevent people from buying them. Another factor contributing to the bad reputation of opal may be the fact that opals are a relatively fragile gemstone. Opals are a soft gemstone compared to diamonds, and can be broken if treated badly or if treated roughly.
This may have contributed to a general perception of opal as “bad luck”, as it would break anyone's heart to lose a precious beautiful opal or family heirloom. However, opals were not considered bad luck by everyone. The reputation of opal received another success in 1829, when Sir Walter Scott published his novel Anne de Geierstein. In this novel, the Baroness of Arnheim uses a talisman made of opal endowed with magical powers, and when a drop of holy water tarnishes the talisman, the opal loses its colors and the baroness dies a moment later.
Because of that scene, people began to associate opals with bad omen and death. This novel was so popular that it only had a bad influence on the sales of opal barely a year after its publication. There is a widespread theory around opals and the alleged curse that accompanies the wearer. Opals are not considered bad luck for everyone.
It has been said that only people born in October can rock opals. While the birthstone for October is opal, they are not unique to this demographic. So, case closed, right? Well, Sir Walter Scott wasn't the only one who talked about this theory before De Beers. In December 1874, another respectable author put his pen on the subject.
We've exonerated De Beers as the prime suspect of being the author of the rumor, but they shouldn't be spared so easily. After all, the company fanned the flames of this wildfire to keep the rumor alive. In the second half of the 19th century, miners discovered opals in rural inland Australia. Everyone, except black opals, has acquired the reputation of being unlucky.
Although the beauty and uniqueness of opals have helped their owners to ignore superstitions, they persist. Are opals unlucky? Over the years, opals developed a bad reputation. This jewel is surrounded by rumors, folklore and superstitious stories. A series of sudden deaths in the Spanish royal family were blamed on the king who wore a cursed opal ring.
This did a lot of damage to the reputation of the stone, linking it to bad luck and misfortune. After being sprayed with a few drops of holy water, the opal loses its play of colors and she dies soon after, reduced to a pile of ashes. Although there are fantastic stories of witches and sorcerers who strengthen their magical powers with black opals, and medieval Europeans believed that opal resembled the “evil eye”, the most popular source in the story that opal is bad luck began with the great 19th-century author, Sir Walter Scott. Opals were placed in the jewels of the Crown of France and Napoleon presented his Empress Josephine with a magnificent red opal containing bright red flashes called “The Burning of Troy”.
The story goes that jealous diamond dealers spread the belief that opals are bad luck to protect themselves and give opals a bad reputation. There are many reports that opal brings luck to people, including the many opal miners who have made their fortune and lived long and prosperous lives. When a goldsmith broke an opal during setting, his partners linked the event to the bad luck of the stone. The saddest saga of opal is the mistake that is often repeated in the last of Sir Walter Scott's novels, Anne of Geierstein (182), which irrevocably links opal with misfortune.
In the Middle Ages, opal was known as the “eye stone” because of the belief that it was vital for good eyesight. Folk tale suggests diamond dealers of the time tarnished opal's reputation by sharing negative stories about stone. They ranked Opal second after emeralds, and in fact they carried the gem with them as a good luck charm or talisman, since it was believed that the gem, like the rainbow, brought good luck to its owner. Discovered by the anthropological prodigy Louis Leakey, the first encounter with opals took place in a Kenyan cave in 4,000 BC.
Nowadays, opal is the birthstone of those born in October, loved by people who believe in the power of precious stones and crystals for their healing properties, and are especially favored by Asian cultures, including Chinese and Japanese, who believe that opals are lucky for business. At that time, two influential authors kept their audience as far away as possible from opals. So why did opal come to be known as the “stone of tears”, and is it true? We have delved into the myth and discovered a fascinating story of luck and tradition that began in ancient times. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that opals had all the positive properties of colored gemstones due to their rainbow-like play of colors.