For centuries, opal was regarded as a stone of kings and the bringer of good luck. In modern times the opal has become the subject of much superstition and all but the black opal have earned a reputation of being unlucky. The fact that it is such a beautiful and unique stone has gone a long way to help opal owners to disregard the superstitions, yet they do remain.
George Kunz attributes the change in perception of this lovely gemstone to a novel by Sir Walter Scott, “Anne of Geierstein.” In the story, an enchanted princess wears an equally enchanted opal adornment in her hair. Its color changes to reflect her moods and tempers. At the climax of the story, holy water is sprinkled on the opal, which causes its fire to go out. The lady perishes.
This tale of bad luck befalling the wearer of an opal, combined with the fact that many gem workers refused to work on the fragile opal, (you break it, you’ve bought it,) seems to be the basis for the bad rap that haunts this lovely stone even today. The human imagination has expanded upon this theme, to the point where a lady told me the other day that it was VERY bad luck to wear an opal if it was not your birthstone.
In ancient times, (the opal is actually a fairly modern stone), the opal was considered a stone of great benefit to the eye. It was worn to cure diseases of the eyes, as well as to render the carrier of the stone invisible to the eyes of others. To produce invisibility an opal would be wrapped in a fresh bay leaf and carried on the person. This supposed trait of invisibility earned the opal the designation of “patronus furum” or “patron of thieves.”
A more magical take on the invisibility theme, is that the opal aids in astral projection, a state in which one is definitely invisible. The inner fire of the fire opal is supposedly attractive to the forces that bring money. The cost of fine opals alone does point to the necessary presence of money. The darkness and depth of the black opal is thought to hold and release power for magicians in their magical workings. Of course, if they use this power for good or bad is up to the discretion of the magician in question, it has no bearing on the stone itself.
Once the stone of kings, second only to the emerald, the fragile opal has a personality and belief system surrounding it as varied and convoluted as the inner fires of the stone itself. The opal is still regarded as a stone of good luck, though superstitions do have a tendency to reinforce themselves in the minds of those who hold them.