Since the dawn of man, opals have fascinated human beings, royals and regulars alike – today, it is still highly treasured for its changing colors and fiery depths. Among these reasons and many more, its value lies in the belief that it brings good luck as well as how difficult and time consuming it is to mine for. Opal’s first discovery was in a cave in Kenya, when a famous anthropologist, Louis Leakey uncovered the first known opal artifacts dating back to about 4000 BC and most likely originating in Ethiopia. The discovery and mining of this precious stone progressed throughout history in much the same way as ruby, emerald, and diamond, in the sense that only those who could afford it would possess its many benefits. Opal healing properties are many and varying, from its ability to “reflect” its wearer’s emotions to the calming and strengthening energies it carries. It is believed that this stone has the ability to intensify emotions and release inhibitions, promoting freedom and independence. However, so much more surrounds this captivating stone, its origins, history, and folklore. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Opal.
1. Opal, Meaning in a Name
Although each first discovery for every culture is different, opal gets its name mainly from three places (or so the records show). This gem’s modern name is derived from the Sanskrit Upala, meaning “precious stone” as well as the Latin Opalus and the Greek Opallios, which both mean “to see a color change.”
2. Opal, Historically Misaccused
Among many negative beliefs about opal is the Australian lore pertaining to the Rainbow Serpent. The Aborigines of Australia were very fearful of this stone as they believed it was of sinister origins, that the stone itself was half serpent half devil and the fiery flashes within being meant to lure them into the devil’s lair. From these same tribes came conflicting beliefs, however, of opal having originated from the Creator himself, fallen from heaven as he left them behind in his footsteps.
3. Opal, a Stone of the Eye
In many ancient practices, this fiery stone was often believed to cure physical ailments, including afflictions of the eye. Its association with the human eye extended to the belief that it could render the wearer invisible – supposedly, wrapping an opal in a fresh bay leaf would disallow others from seeing you. This association gave opal the popular term patronus furum, Latin for “patron of thieves.”
4. Opal, a Magical History
Among Opal’s many uses, there sits a multitude of superstitious and spiritual beliefs. Of these, its role as a magician’s tool is quite prominent, as records state that the stone was often used to aid in astral projection (perhaps as an extension of the belief that it makes the wearer invisible), which was considered an eternal form of invisibility.
5. Opal, an Ancient Cosmic Stone
The belief that opal descended from the heavens reaches across ancient civilizations and their stories. In Arabian folklore, it is believed that opal falls from the sky to earth in flashes of lightning. The ancient Greeks believed that the stone was actually the tears of Zeus which fell to the earth and materialized into opal crystals. In India, there is a story of the Goddess of Rainbows who turns herself into the stone in order to escape the advances of other gods.
6. Opal, the Stone of Divination
In traditional beliefs, the Greeks thought opal to possess visionary powers, in much the same sense that it is believed to cure diseases of the eye. They, as well as many other cultures, believed that the stone bestowed the gift of foresight and would be worn while practicing divination and trying to look into the future.
7. Opal, a Hairdresser’s Secret?
Many superstitions, both good and bad have surrounded opal’s captivating and dark depths since it was first discovered thousands of years ago. One of the lighter and more cosmetic beliefs was that opal preserves blonde hair color, with fair haired women of Germany and Scandinavia wearing the stone to keep their hair vibrant.
8. Opal, the Stone of Luck
Although many negative myths have been built up around opal over the centuries, mainly based on the 1800s novel Anne of Geierstein by Walter Scott wherein holy water fell on an opal and it became cloudy and white, losing its magical color – this is however based on fiction rather than fact. Bearing an ancient connection to the God of Love, Ares (or Cupid), many Roman emperors would gift it to their wives to bring good luck. Other beliefs also say that the depth and darkness of opal can be used to store and release a magician’s power, while the inner fire and play of the colors inside the stone is known to attract money and wealth. Some cultures even see opal as the stone of hope and would often be seen set into the forks of anchors.
9. Opal, a Roman – Egyptian Gift of Love
Because Rome initially opened the market for opal, being a rich empire with wealthy citizens, the stone was readily available with those who possessed the means to pay. Mark Antony truly loved and adored the gem, desperately desiring to give one to his lover, Cleopatra. The particular piece he coveted belonged to Senator Nonius, who refused to sell it to Mark Antony – an opal stone the size of an almond and worth around 2,000,000 sesterces ($80,000 USD). Because of this refusal, the Senator was immediately banished from court. Legend says that one Roman Emperor offered to trade one-third of his vast kingdom for a single opal.
10. Opal, a Royal Staple
Of course, many of the first to own opal stones were those of high ranking who could actually afford to pay for such a luxury. It is said that Napoleon presented his Empress Josephine with a brilliant red opal set among the jewels in a crown, its red flashes of color symbolizing the “burning of Troy”. Despite the negative connotations of the stone, many misfortunes befalling Britain after the arrival of the stone, Queen Victoria became a lover of opal, growing a fine collection of it among her many treasures. Because the Royal Court of Britain was regarded as the highest model of fashion around the world, opal quickly became one of the most sought after gemstones.
Zodiac: Cancer, Libra, Scorpio, Pisces
Vibration Number: Eight
Healing Properties: Love, Luck, Loyalty, Peace, Consciousness, Faithfulness