Friday, April 12, 2013

Opal Myths

I've always always always loved opals. They contain every color in the rainbow. And I've always loved color. I'm not a big diamond person- I'd much rather have an opal than a diamond. But many people are just the opposite. And they blame opals for 'bad luck'. How can that be? Opals have brought me nothing but beauty and happiness. So I wanted to examine why opals have gotten a bad rap in recent years.

In the mid-1800's author Sir Walter Scott wrote a book called 'Anne of Geierstein'. The main character wore an opal which changed color depending on her mood. The opal even was seen to exert evil influence over the main character. It's no wonder people were spooked!

And let us not forget the poor diamond trade. Around the same time Scott's book came out, diamond merchants saw an opportunity to cash in on the book's negative image of the opal by continuing the propaganda that opal is not a lucky gem. This of course was because they wanted a larger market share of jewelry sales. Opals had been a very popular gem up until this time in history, and in fact had been associated with good luck across many cultures, often being used in engagement rings.

In fact, Queen Victoria was a lover of opals. She actually supported the miners who came to London hawking their Australian opals. People had never seen Australian opals before and didn't think they were natural, as they were used to milky and less-firey European stones. She supported the Australian miners and not only wore opals but gave them to her daughters for their wedding presents.

Some cultures mistook the opal's beauty as sorcery, and connected evilness to it. But the large majority of cultures have loved and appreciated the opal throughout history.

Also, the opal's fragility has been given a bad rap. Opals are not as hard a stone as emeralds, rubies, or diamonds, but are also not as fragile as generally thought. They are comparable to glass. And the thicker the stone, the more robust it is. Often times an opal will crack because it is prong-set, which exerts uneven pressure on the stone. Bezel-setting opals is best. 

And the myth of soaking an opal in water to keep it from cracking is simply not true. The water in an opal is contained within it's cell structure. The stone is non-porous and will not absorb any water. Same idea with oil- it will only make your stone oily but will not prolong the life of the stone or prevent cracking. Opals are stable stones and will only crack with pressure from bad settings, or extreme heat/cold.  In fact, immersing an Ethiopian opal in water will temporarily hide the fire. 

How could you not love an opal??

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