October Birthstone Opal
Opal jewelry has been worn for millennia. It is rumored that Cleopatra has an opal in her tiara from her lover Mark Antony. And Pliny a Roman philosopher called it the Queen of Gems for its multitude of colors. Considered throughout the centuries to be enormously lucky – knights took opal into battle believing it protected them – as did women who used opal is a strengthening talisman in childbirth. It was Queen Victoria however who really revived the passion for opal jewelry in the late nineteenth century when she wore it regularly and gave suites to her daughters. This coincided with the early discoveries of white opal in Australia and the earlier finds of black opal being exhibited in the London Exhibition of 1905.
The October birthstone, Opal is a mineraloid formed by the process of gradual natural heating of silica gel found in the cracks in rocks. It comes in two varieties, precious and common, based on the ability to produce the play-of-color effect under exposure to white light.
While not as rare as it used to be before the discovery of rich mines in Australia, its varied colors and their interaction still make opal birthstone a prized and cherished gift.
Opal Facts & Folklore
- Australian aboriginal tribes believed that opals were the Creator’s footprints on Earth.
- Necklaces with opals set in them were worn to repel evil and to protect eyesight.
- Opals help to control temper and calm nerves. A dream of an opal means that good luck will come.
- Each opal is made of tiny spheres of amorphous hydrated silica; its water content makes it prone to cracking or crazing (many fine cracks). This can happen if the gem dries out, such as might occur when exposed to high temperatures or long periods of low humidity. The gem is relatively soft, with a hardness rating of only 5.5. (Never place an opal in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner: The vibrations can crack the gem.)