Birthstone October Opal - Antique and Vintage opal jewelry.

Birthstone October Opal - Antique and Vintage opal jewelry.

Opal is the birthstone for the month of October, along with pink tourmaline. It is also the stone given to celebrate
the 14th year of marriage.

#3485 Edwardian opal and diamond enhancer pendant

As we will see below, opals were held in exceptionally high regard by many,
varied cultures for thousands of years. Each culture had a theory on the origin of the rainbow-colored gem and the story,
while differing in each case, also reflects the multi-colors and watery-iridescence of the gem. The Ancient Greeks
thought that Zeus's tears turned to opals; the Indian goddess of the Rainbow got
so annoyed by her many suitors that she turned herself into a rainbow-colored opal to avoid them. The Arabs of old believed
that opals fell from heaven in flashes of lightening, from whence came their color.

#6105Art Nouveau black opal ring

Most important are the views of Australia's Aborigines. For it was in Australia at Lightning Ridge that the majority of
 opals were eventually to be found after the 1880's. The Aborigines of Australia understood
 about opals in the times called Dreaming.
They told that opals originated when the Creator put all of the colors of the rainbow into one gem, the opal, which
was named the Rainbow Serpent.  Their stories of the Creation of the Universe include the creation of
the Rainbow Serpent. They related how their Creator travelled via a rainbow road to spread a
message of peace on earth. With every step he took, the stones under his feet turned to opals. 
Today opal is the national stone of Australia, who supplies 95% of the world market.

Part of opal's many powers lay in it's appearance of incorporating all the other gems. A great opal will display 'all the
of the rainbow' and it is this rainbow quality that plays such a big part in the superstitions and mythology of the gem.

While so many cultures viewed the opal in awe, in Europe at times, opals have been associated with bringing bad
 luck. This can be attributed to the publication in 1829
of Sir Walter Scott's novel, Anne of Geierstein, in which the heroine dies after a drop of water falls on her opal gem.
Apparently, at the time the book was published, the sale of opals dropped by 50% in reaction to the book and it stayed
 low for a long time to come.

#5147Art Nouveau whiplash brooch with opal

Queen Victoria was not one to be impressed by superstition. Not only did she give her own daughters opals as
wedding gifts (with no negative
results), but she delighted in giving opals as gifts and wore them herself. The feisty Queen was an exception. She
 did not persuade
her Russian contemporaries about the benign nature of these stones: they continued to live in mortal fear of their
malevolence well into the 20th century.

Over the centuries, opals have been attributed with a wide host of supernatural powers. They kept blonds blond (Scandinavia),
a symbol of hope (Asia), the power of invisibility was bestowed by opals, fidelity, therapeutic for eye problems, other
diseases and bleeding, to name but a few.

However, opals were known in both Europe, Africa and even America for thousands of years. Known to have existed in America
over 10000 years ago, in Europe, they were credited with magical powers by both Greeks and Romans.
Stories abound about the high esteem that opals were held in by the Ancients and even Shakespeare considered the opal as the
Queen of the gems.

Opals were mined by the Aztecs thousands of years ago and opals are still to be found in South
America. I especially love the bright orange color of the Mexican Fire Opal. Sanskrit, African, Russian and European writings all reference the marvels of these multi-colored stones. 
Unsurprisingly, opals were believed to assume the magic and religious powers of all the colored stones that are
reflected in the opal's spectrum. 

#5586Mexican Fire Opal Ring

Antique opal jewelry is difficult to find. In 1877 the discovery of black opals in Australia got opals really rocking and
rolling.  From here on, antique opal jewelry abounds. Late Victorian, Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts jewelry makes much
use of this versatile gem.
Opals can command very high prices and can be bought dirt cheap. Naturally, this depends entirely on where on the spectrum
of great color and other qualities the stone is to be found. Different cultures looked for different qualities in opals. We
will discuss of all of this in later posts.
This post only begins to touch the topic of the opal gemstone. There will be a number of other posts describing the
varieties and other qualities of opals at a later date.

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