Opals are bad luck myth

Hello all, Could someone please tell me where the “opals are bad
luck” myth came from.

I would also like some history on opals if it is accessible. Thanks
Sarabeth Carnat

The opal myth seems to date back to Victorian England. Probably
because the opals coming from the new world (specifically Australia
1868 onwards) were notoriously unstable, cracked and lost color.

Tony Konrath

I once read the bad luck myth with opals came from cutters of the
stone. They would expose it’s beauty, and one more swipe on the
wheel, poof, it was gone. My 2 cents Thomas Blair

In Kunz’ The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, he cites the novel by
Sir Walter Scott, “Anne of Geierstein” as the source of the
superstition. The life of the heroine was bound to the gem in her
hair, an opal, which shot red fire when she was happy and caused her
reduction to ashes after the stone was doused with holy water.


Here are just a few links I found by doing a search using
Google.com. Enjoy!


Terri Collier
Dallas, TX
reply to: @Terri_Collier

I think Cathy is right. Also, when the diamond people saw what was
coming out of Australia they felt they counldn’t compete and
therefore waged a propaganda campaign.

I’ve been cutting and using opal for over 25 years and selling
retail for most of that time. I’ve heard the most outrageous stories
about opal. One was “My mother told us we couldn’t wear opal because
we’re Irish”.

I heard, like the opals are very fragile and could break when
manipulated them; bench jewelers invented the bad luck myth to avoid
setting them. Regards Adriana

I heard, like the opals are very fragile and could break when
manipulated them; bench jewelers invented the bad luck myth to
avoid setting them." 

Hi Adriana, Actually, believe it or not, the whole Opals-as-bad-luck
myth got it’s start about 300 years ago, when a “novelist” famous
for the equivalent of dime store romance novels (Sir Walter Scott, I
believe) wrote a widely-read piece of rubbish called either “Anne of
Gierstein” or “The Legend of …” (I don’t recall which). Prior to
that, as Pliny the Elder wrote, Opals were seen as “the Queen of all
gems, vastly superior to all others because, in the Opal are the
colors of all other stones” (I’m paraphrasing Pliny, but that was
the gist of it).

Anyhow, as the story of Anne develops, she’s an illegitimate child
who’s unfortunately been marked for life, as a result of her
philandering father’s ways, and subsequently becomes the recipient
of a witches’ curse (like I said, great writing, here…), through
which she’s forced to wear a magical Opal brooch from early
childhood until adulthood. This Opal, according to the book, had
fire which mirrored Anne’s moodswings, such that the Opal glowed
brightly when she was happy, but “shot out baleful sparks of colour”
when she was angry or melancholy. (Aha: our plot thickens!) Pivotal
to the tale, Anne was specifically ordered never to allow water to
come in contact with either her own body or that of the Opal… “or
else”. As the story progressed, Anne was swept off her feet by a
handsome prince, who asked for and received her hand in marriage,
BUT… while at the altar, the priest accidentally sprinkled his
Holy Water on both Anne and her magical Opal, which apparently shot
out it’s “most baleful spark” ever, then went colorless! Suddenly,
Anne passed out and collapsed, whereupon her groom and handmaidens
carted her off to a side chamber, to rest. When they returned,
several minutes later, all that remained of either Anne or the Opal
were her clothes and a small pile of ashes!

Like I’d said when I began the retelling of this “legend”, it’s
pretty far-fetched stuff, by today’s standards – a real “believe it
or not” story. Unfortunately, the ladies of the 17th century weren’t
quite as well educated or worldly as those of today, so a great many
of them took this book at face value, and the Opal immediately fell
out of favor. Ironically, since this “tragic tale” became a
best-seller at just about the same time as the original
(comparatively, rather dull) European sources for precious Opal
played out, but before the Australian finds were discovered, there
weren’t many reasons to argue the book’s point (other than its
blatant stupidity). All of which may go a long way towards
explaining the uphill battle that fine Opal miners still face, on
occasion, when trying to market their goods. It’s absolutely
ridiculous, but that’s the reasonably unvarnished – except by
memory’s tricks, since I haven’t read that book in over 25 years –
and historically true reason behind Opal’s lack of popularity!

Go figurAll my best,
Douglas Turet, GJ
Lapidary Artist, Designer & Goldsmith
Turet Design
P.O. Box 162
Arlington, MA 02476
Tel. (617) 325-5328
eFax (928) 222-0815

What is your support for the phrase “lack of popularity” ? For the
last several years I have earned my living sell my work at art fairs
with my designs that feature opal almost exclusively. Previous to
the last several years I did whatever was necessary in the jewelry

The thing with opal is that you have to educate yourself and do a
knowledgeable presentation for your potential customer. The most
common thing I hear from people is “I didn’t know that opal looked
like that”. My assumption is that most people have only seen low
grade white base opal in commercial settings. Like many other things
there’s an enormous range in quality. Properly set quality opal
doesn’t break. By properly set I mean designs that are appropriate
to the stone. When a potential customer makes a “weird” comment it’s
often an opportunity to educate them and perhaps make a sale. Often
the comment is the customer’s way to engage you in conversation.
They want to know more and if the stone (opal) didn’t attract them in
the first place they probably would have passedby without comment. KPK

All, Has anyone commented about the work of Allan Eckert and others
on the history of opal? Evidently, the bad luck reputation goes
back to the Middle Ages. The stone was associated at the time with
a particular writer. He called the stone “patronus furnum” meaning
protector of thieves. This sprung from the beleief that the stone
gave a thief lightning speed so as to allow them to perform their
trade undetected even in broad daylight. Not much earlier the
stone had a wonderful reputation, as the Romans valued it over
almost all other stones, evidently. I think rightly so, since what
other gemstone has the beauty of quality opal. Many other stones in
a way simply look like glass!

The name “Occulus Mundi” or “Eye of the World” was applied to the
hydrophane varieties. I think a lot of the bad associations with
evil with the stone, probably had their root with that medieval
writing. That source is quoted in the Eckert book “Opal”. That
book is very excellent is discussing in painstaking detail opal

Anyway, my two cents.