September 23 – October 22
Two gemstones are associated with the month of October, the Opal and the Tourmaline. The Opal tends to be more popular, mainly because it is more abundant. We’ll begin with an overview of this gem today and resume with the Tourmaline later this week.
The name opal comes from Opallos, a Greek word that means “to see a change,” as in a change in color. The chemical formula for the opal and the quartz is the same, but the opal also contains 5% to 10% water. It has a unique structure. It is made of tiny spheres and gaps, with water filling these gaps. This has the effect of diffracting the light that hits the stone, thereby creating the various wavelengths that are responsible for the opal’s radiance and changing colors.
The opal was known to the Ancient Romans, who first extracted it from the area we now call the Czech Republic. Today, the opal is found in abundance in Australia and it is that country’s national gemstone. A magnificent black opal was found there in 1877, twenty-five years after author Sir Walter Scott inadvertently single-handedly destroyed the European opal market.
In his novel titled Anne of Geierstein (1829), Lady Hermione, the main character, wore an opal in her hair that was believed to be enchanted. In the story, Lady Hermione is accused of being a demoness. She perishes after a drop of holy water accidentally falls on the opal. At the time, and this is still true today of course, novels were also means of conveying political or social messages and readers assumed the author was offering a clever warning regarding the unfortunate fate of an individual carrying an opal on their person.
Just months after publication of the novel, the European opal market crashed, with prices down by more than 50%. The above mentioned Australian discovery restored the popularity of this gorgeous and far from malevolent gem. There are significant sources in Mexico and the Western United States as well.
The ancient Romans believed the opal was a symbol of hope and love. For the Arabs, it was said to have the ability to make its wearer invisible. the opal may very well be the precursor of the mood stone. In Medieval times, it was said that a change in the color of an opal marked the wearer’s good or failing health.
The opal is believed to be a healing stone. Medieval people carried it to ensure a strong heart and protect against infections. Other properties assigned to this gem include its ability to confer hope. It is known as the stone of great achievements and it has been called “the stone of the gods”. Most interestingly, especially as a tool for self-realization, the opal has been associated with the release of inhibitions and is used as an aid in the process of change.
Finally, on a slightly humorous note, at least in our culture, it is interesting to mention that Medieval people also believed that wearing a necklace of opals prevented blond maidens’ hair from darkening.
If the opal is your birthstone, your flower is the Marigold and you are considered to be loyal, faithful and confident.
Click HERE for more articles mentioning the opal.
Click HERE for more articles mentioning tourmaline.