October birthstone, Opal

The history of the birthstone varies, generally thought to have started with the 12 gemstones of Aaron’s breastplate. It appears that it has been decided that the Carbunkle stone may refer to Ruby or Garnet, and Sardius may refer to Carnelian, and Ligure refers to Zircon or Quartz crystal. Someone decided to modernize these gemstones, pure conjecture on their part but this is the interpretation none the less.

Opal bracelet by Cartier

It is believed that a gemstone for each month is far older going back to the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Different cultures around the world have developed different birthstone lists over the centuries, altering birthstone choices according to availability and price. Birthstones have been and still are, changed based on availability of particular gemstones. Consumers want to own their birthstones and pricing can affect popularity of a particular choice. Hence, there are multiple choices for each month.

The standard birthstones for October are Opal and Tourmaline. Both of these gemstones are among the most beautiful and untraditional of all the birthstones.

Opal’s shifting play of kaleidoscopic colors is unlike any other gem.   Fine opal’s beauty is elusive and challenging to capture in words. It has been compared to fireworks, jellyfish, galaxies, lightning and volcanoes. In ancient Rome, this gem symbolized love and hope. They gave it a name – opalus- that was synonymous with “precious stone.”   In 75 AD, the Roman scholar Pliny observed, “Some opali carry such a play within them that they equal the deepest and richest colors of painter. Others…simulate the flaming fire of burning sulphur…and even the bright blaze of burning oil.” Long gone is the day that an opal was just a creamy white stone with little color play. All this has changed with the wide variety of colors opal comes in.

Opal and diamond ring

It is interesting that the same gem that’s capable of inspiring such awe is also a mainstream offering of modest value. Its wide availability makes the calibrated white opal cabochon perhaps the most familiar phenomenal gem. At the same time, a rare top-quality black opal’s remarkable beauty makes it truly phenomenal, a treasure that rivals the Big 3—ruby, emerald and sapphire—in allure. You have multiple choices in opal: white opal, black opal, fire opal-red to orangey red, sometimes yellow (might or might not show play-of-color) and common opal without play-of-color (pink or blue). If you are lucky enough to have this as your birthstone, you have many choices in color!

There is much lore surrounding opal. Much of this tradition dates back to the beginnings of civilization, when jewelry was worn not only as adornment but, also as protection against occult forces and human foolishness. Blonde women were known to wear necklaces of opal in order to protect their hair from losing its color. Some cultures thought the effect of the opal on sight, could render the wearer invisible.  Early races credited opal with magical qualities and traditionally, opal was said to aid its wearer in seeing limitless possibilities. It was believed to clarify by amplifying and mirroring feelings, buried emotions and desires. Medieval Europeans shunned opal because of its likeness to the eyes of several “evil” animals, such as cats. Fear of the Evil Eye, common to cultures the world over, was and remains especially acute in the Mediterranean. Simply defined, the term signifies a covetous or malicious glance meant to bring harm. Queen Victoria, however, did much to reverse the unfounded bad press. Queen Victoria became a lover of opal, kept a fine personal collection, and wore opals throughout her reign. To this day, you will hear that it is bad luck to purchase an opal for yourself or it must be surrounded in diamonds. (but then, everything looks good surrounded in diamonds right?!) The Opal has had more than it’s share of bad press.

Opal and Tourmaline ring by Cartier

This goes back to a novel by Sir Walter Scott, Anne of Geuerstein, written in 1829. In the novel Lady Hermione is accused of being a demoness and dies after a drop of holy water falls on her opal and destroys all the color. Previous to this incident the opal fired off bright colors depending on the mood of Lady Hermione. There is more to the novel but it did one thing it gave the Opal a bad name and it took years and years for the stone to start selling again as it had been shunned purely from this novel. And it is true there are many today who still believe the opal can only be safely worn by those who have an October birthday. This is my birthstone and I admit to observing peculiar things happening to those who purchased an opal ring and did not have October birthdays. I am sure it was purely coincidental, or was it.

Opal bracelet by Cartier

Thank you DDJ blog