Opal Symbolism

faceted Welo opal - opal symbolism
Faceted Welo Opal, 12.2 cts, 16 mm. © Hashnu Stones & Gems. Used with permission.

For centuries, opal symbolism and lore included associations with kings and good luck. However, in modern times, this gemstone has become the object of many negative superstitions. All but the black opal have acquired a reputation for being unlucky. Although the beauty and uniqueness of opals have helped their owners disregard the superstitions, they persist.

Why Opals Got A Bad Rap

In The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, the mineralogist George Kunz identified what changed the popular perception of opal. In Sir Walter Scott’s 1829 novel, Anne of Geierstein, an enchanted princess wore an equally enchanted opal adornment in her hair. The stone changed color to reflect her moods and tempers. At the story’s climax, holy water sprinkled on the opal put out its fire. And so, the lady perished.

Take one tale of misfortune befalling an opal wearer. Combine with the fact that many gem cutters refuse to work on the fragile gem. (You break it, you’ve bought it). Thus, you get the basis for the bad rap that still haunts this lovely stone. Of course, the human imagination has seized and expanded on this negative association. Just the other day, a lady told me it was VERY bad luck to wear an opal if it wasn’t your birthstone. (Editor’s Note: Are you an opal lover but skittish since you weren’t born in October? Find out the hour of your birth. Opal is an alternative birthstone for those born in the 6 PM hour).

opal symbolism - rough pieces
“Opal” by Yagan Kiely. Licensed under CC By-SA 2.0.

Opal Symbolism and Vision

Wearing opal as a jewelry stone is a relatively modern practice. However, in ancient times, people wore this stone for various reasons. Many considered opal to be beneficial to the eye and wore it to cure eye diseases. Some even believed it could render the carrier invisible. Supposedly, carrying an opal wrapped in a fresh bay leaf would keep others from seeing you. This superstition earned opal the popular designation of patronus furum, Latin for “patron of thieves.”

Opals and Magic

Perhaps extending on the invisibility theme, some believe opals aid in astral projection, a state of definite invisibility.

Supposedly, the inner fire or play of color of the fire opal attracts forces that bring money. Then again, the cost of fine opals alone points to the necessary presence of money.

Some believe the darkness and depth of the black opal can hold and release power for magicians in their arcane workings. Of course, whether they use this power for good or bad is up to their discretion. It has no bearing on the stone itself.

A Gem with Many Associations

Once the stone of kings, second only to the emerald, the fragile opal has a convoluted personality and lore. Opal symbolism is as varied as the play of color of the stone itself. Many still regard the opal as a good luck stone. However, those who hold superstitions are more likely to latch on to the negative associations.

opal symbolism - pendants
“Akva_5,” “Aqua Vita” and “Aqua Mortem” pendants. Australian opals and polymer clay, pastel, paint, and metal furniture, Collection Otrava, by Valeria Myrusso. Licensed under CC By 2.0.