October brings us natures’ spectacular play with colors as Fall arrives, as does the birthstone for October, Opal. It’s name comes from the Latin word “opalus,” meaning, “seeing jewel.” The opal is quite a spectacular stone which flashes the many colors of the rainbow when moved, due to the interference and diffraction of light on small cracks and other variations within the stones’ chemical make-up. The opal is formed as silica minerals mix with ground water forming a silica gel that settles and hardens in underground crooks and hollows. Opals contain between three and ten percent water, but same may contain as much as twenty percent. The colors of opals vary from white to black, with the red and black opals being most rare and the white and green most common.
Opals date back to prehistoric times and were said to bring good luck. This belief continued through to the Middle Ages as the opal was often given to knights to carry for good luck by their “ladies-in-waiting.” Queen Victoria (1837-1901) was said to have worn opals throughout her life and often gave them to her friends and to other Royal Family members.
The Roman scholar, Pliny (23-79 C.E.), described opals as “having a refulgent fire of the carbuncle (ruby or garnet), the glorious purple of amethyst, the sea green of emerald, and all those colors glittering together mixed in an incredible way.” The Romans loved the opal for its beauty and its ability to ward off evil and provide its wearer with protective powers. Other legends claim that opals fell from heaven in flashes of lightning. Cleopatra is said to have worn an opal to attract the attention of Mark Anthony.
Regardless of the history and lore that travels with the beautiful opal, it is a real treasure to bestow upon those born under Zodiac signs of Libra and Scorpio. Its history of charm and luck, along with its characteristics of faithfulness and confidence, makes it a perfect gift for any occasion.
A bit of care is needed, as it is a soft stone, easily damaged by changes in heat and pressure. Be sure to remove opals before washing dishes, bathing, or swimming due to the severe temperature changes and chemicals in the water. Because opals contain some water, they should never be stored in vaults, especially if dehumidifiers are used. When opals get too dry, they are prone to cracking or “crazing.” To keep your opal from drying, it may be helpful to immerse it in luke-warm water for several hours from time to time. For cleaning, it’s best to softly rub the opal with a tissue or a soft cloth. Never use chemicals, abrasives, toothpaste or ultrasonic cleaners – only a mild soapy luke-warm water solution and a very soft brush.
Mark Antony, Pliny, Josephine & Napoleon, Queen Victoria – who was the owner of the world’s most famous opal, “Burning of Troy?”