Consisting of up to thirty percent water, the translucent opal is the traditional October birthstone, and for the zodiac signs Libra and Scorpio respectively. With its fantastic color variations, the opal is one of the most beautiful of all birthstones. The opal’s colors change dependent upon the lighting and its surroundings, and it is said to resemble a breathtaking rainbow. Some opals are placed on top of darker stones to add richness to the opal. There are a number of color variations that exist in opals, with the most rare being reds against black. The most common color combination is a translucent white with green and blue swirled throughout it. Other colors often found in opals are red, blue, green, orange, and yellow.Approximately 97% of the world’s supply of opals comes from Australia, where it is the national gem stone. The largest opal in the world, “Olympic Australis,” was found in 1956 in “Eight Mile,” an opal field in Cooper Pedy, Australia. Weighing in at approximately 17,000 carats, it is eleven inches long, four and three quarter inches tall, and about four and a half inches wide. It is valued at an astounding 2.5 million Australian dollars. In 1992 the Guinness Book of World Records added the “Galaxy Opal” as the world’s largest polished opal. Found in northeastern Brazil in 1976, this massive finished opal weighs in at about 3749 carats.
Historically, the opal is said to have magical powers. In some cultures, it is believed that the opal can bring good luck. In others, it is said to provide the holder with the power of invisibility if held in the hand and wrapped in a bay leaf. It has been ground and ingested to prevent night terrors, and even placed in crowns to ward off evil and promote good eyesight. In more recent years, the opal is believed to cause bad luck and even death. Many believe that if an opal is spotted while shopping, one should recognize the sign of bad luck and discontinue all further purchases. It is said to be symbolic of confidence and faithfulness when given as a gift.
This iridescent stone is said to signify purity, innocence, happiness, and loyalty. Its medicinal powers are believed to include the repair of and relief from eye problems, and protection from them. It is also believed to enhance dreams, imagination, and visions. Some cultures believe it is the means to clairvoyance, similar to the crystal ball. The black opal is said to be the luckiest of all opals, and in ancient times a lighter stone would often be dipped in oils to darken the color.
The name opal is derived from the Latin word “opalus” which means precious jewel. There are a number of legends associated with the opal, including one which claims that the opal fell from the heavens in a fiery flash of lightening. In medieval times, it was believed that the opal could indicate the health of the wearer by the change in its colors. Ancient Orientals called it the “anchor of hope” for those born in the month of October.