Monday, November 12, 2007
Learning About: Opal
Boulder opal carving of a walrus, showing flashes of color from the exposed opal. The carving is 9 cm (3.5 inches) long. Isn't he cute?
Another quick weekend past with only six more until Christmas! Nothing much happened, though bf had a major case of the snores last night that kept me up until I considered pushing him off the bed. A big nudge and a whispered "Quit it!" sufficed, though the guilt from that kept me up for a little while longer.
Today's another gem learning day! Welcome to the big, wide world of Opals!
I'm a little late, as opal was October's gemstone, but it's got quite a history.
The name opal originated from two known sources: the Sanskrit "upula," which means "precious stone," and the Greek derivative "Opallios" which translates to "see a change of color."
Pippa Small Opal Necklace, $6,000
Greek society treasured opals almost as much as diamonds, calling them the "queen of gems" for all the colors represented in the single stone. At the time, it was revered as a symbol pf hope and purity.
Vintage Opal Cluster Ring, $385
The Romans picked up on the Greeks opal lovin', and thought it had the power to cure disease. They called it “Cupid Paederos”---"a child as beautiful as love." The healing thing was a big deal even into the Middle Ages, where the folks thought opal could heal eye diseases. Something I especially took note of: blondes during that time wore opals with the belief that it would keep their golden locks from fading. Ah, the pre-Clairol days.
Worlde Green Opal Dangle Bracelet, $50
Shakespeare used an opal in his famed play Twelfth Night to represent a woman's ever shifting moods.
This was not the last circumstance in which opal became a literary celebrity.
Sir Walter Scott later used an opal as a plot device in his novel Anne of Geierstein. "The main character, Lady Hermione, wore an enchanted opal in her hair. It gave off fiery red flashes when she was angry, and it sparkled beautifully when she was happy. One time when a few drops of holy water were sprinkled on the gem, it lost its fire and sparkle. At the same time, Lady Hermione became ill and was carried to her room and placed in bed. The next day all that was found of her and the gem was a heap of ashes in her bed. "
Black Opal Ring, $6,400
I got most of this information from Jewel For Me, and I particularly love the writer's reaction to Scott's novel:
"Sir Walter Scott’s bestselling novel...written in 1829, was the story of Lady Hermione, who is falsely accused of being a demoness, and dies shortly after a drop of holy water accidentally falls on her opal and destroys its color. The public took this to mean that this genius author was warning of the bad luck an opal can bring, so they stopped buying the beautiful gemstone. Sir Walter Scott succeeded in destroying the European opal market for almost 50 years with really, no real merit whatsoever."
Steadfast Earrings by Love Heals, $128
Opals also got a bad rap due to their fragility: they dried and broke easily. Maybe a couple of frustrated jewelers didn't want to work with them anymore?
Some other interesting opal tidbits:
-It was thought to make the wearer invisible whenever he wished, earning the nickname Patronus Forum---"Patron of Thieves."
-Arabs thought that the flash of color in opals was formed by lightening strikes, capturing the light within the stone. This led to the belief that opals helped to ward of lightening.
-Queen Victoria of England (aka "The Sad Queen) and her daughters started a huge opal wearing trend amongst the British ladies of the time. She gave the stones as wedding presents; they symbolized hope, happiness and truth.
-Napoleon proposed to his Josephine with a brillian red-flecked opal, calling her his Helen of Troy. (Aww, Napoleon!)
-Most natural stones come from Australia, while the "created" opals come from Japan.
Ten Thousand Things Peruvian Opal Cluster Necklace, $1,495.00
Jewels for Me
Check the comments for WendyB's professional take on the dastardly opal!