Monday, September 30, 2013

Are Opals Cursed?

Standard oval opal

My mother in law used to tell me that you can’t wear opals unless it is your birthstone or you will be unlucky. I think this story comes from a novel by Sir Walter Scott, Anne of Gerstein. In this novel a character wears opal jewelry that changes color depending on her mood. One day some holy water is sprinkled on the opal and she faints and dies. This put a bit of a damper on the opal market and it crashed and prices went down 50% shortly after the novel was published.

Opal jewelry

Opals are the alternative birthstone for October, but I believe you can safely wear it even if you’re not an October baby. Opals have a beautiful iridescent quality and at times they may seem like they are changing color to suit someone’s mood. Under magnification opal appear to be a mass of tightly packed spheres arranged in three dimensional layers. The higher quality the opal is the better the play of light and reflectivity of the gemstone.

Opal under magnification

Opals are relatively fragile; they can crack when cut and exposure to high temperatures can also cause cracking or crazing of the stone. Maybe the story of the opal causing a person’s death when touched with holy water has more to do with the opal’s general weakness. Opals should never be cleaned in ultrasonic cleaners, steamed or immersed in water. This will damage the surface of the stone. If the opal is damaged it loses some of its reflective properties and color, it would seem as if it no longer changes color with your mood.

 You can slice opal

There are many different types of opals, one type is the Mexican fire opal. It is generally found in Mexico and comes in a red or orange color. To me they don’t resemble opals but do have a bright orange color that shines from within. Mexican fire opals that have a transparent reddish orange quality are the most valuable. The more yellow or brownish the stone the less value and therefore you should pay less for these stones. Opals can catch the light, change colors and almost glow, so ignore the curse and wear an opal, just stay away from holy water.

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