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The Opal Gemstone

The Opal Gemstone – Both a Lucky and Unlucky Gemstone

By Charles L Harmon

For those born in October the opal gemstone is said to be a lucky gem. It’s the birthstone (there can be more than one jewel) associated with the month of October. In spite of the luck attached to the opal there is also a condition attached.

Only the pure in heart and of good intentions can expect the traditional protection offered by the opal.

There is a comparatively modern tradition that says the opal brings misfortune to its owner. It seems that tradition started, probably unintentionally, by a careless reading of Sir Walter Scott’s novel (1829) “Anne of Geierstein”. That novel features the opal as an enchanted gemstone, the soul of which was bound up with that Lady Heroine of an old legend.

It is generally assumed that Scott didn’t mean to convey the idea that the opal was unlucky, but it must have been taken that way. In his story at first the opal worked magic when it was traded for a man’s soul, but then later he suffered a tragic death.

opal gemstone

opal luck

A long time ago the opal was thought to have great virtues as a talisman. That belief still persists among some Orientals and others, even nowadays. The superstitious ideas of the East involving opals, held that the opal was alive and endowed with a soul.

That soul was attuned with that of its wearer. It expressed gaiety by showing its sparkly characteristics, but on the other hand expressed anger when its wearer was filled with anger by shooting out red gleams.

Going back as far as the fourteenth century the opal was unfortunately associated with the Black Death. That was true, particularly in Venice, Italy. Back then, it was believed that the owner’s death by the plague was marked by the emitting of fiery hues from the opal for a few seconds. The moment its owner passed away the gemstone grew dim.

Unusual Opal Gifts


In Scandinavian mythology there is also a superstition that the opal was dangerous to the eyesight. That seems to have come about by the idea that a Norse god fashioned gems, which were believed to be opals, from the eyes from children.

For centuries the superstitious notion that opals dimmed the eyes, or would make one blind was a common thought. At the same time, however, there were others that believed that opals bestowed the gift of invisibility. For a time, only thieves were said to own opals.

During the middle ages, a time ripe for superstitions, the brilliant redness, considered the fire that burns in the true opal, was regarded as visual evidence of some demonic occupancy. Of course one did not want to be associated with demons so opals had a bad connotation during those times.

an opal

Opal from Yowah, Queensland, Australia

Opals are said to have a limited lifetime due to the presence of water inside the gem. Lapidaries seem to agree that opals will start cracking and about a hundred years is a lifetime of an opal before it starts to crack. Of course nowadays maybe there is a bit of a controversy about that.

However you look at it, whether as lucky or unlucky, the venerable opal gemstone has been highly endowed by imaginative minds over the centuries with supernatural and magical powers that probably run into the hundreds.

Copyright © Charles L Harmon

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Questions About Opals

Sandra asks…

Wearing an opal bad luck? I wore mine yesterday and ended up in ER. Mom says its my necklace.?

I bought an Opal Necklace and yesterday I wound up in the ER after a freak oil spill while cooking. I have never been hurt cooking before, knock on wood, until yesterday! I put it on for the first time yesterday, the necklace. My mom says its because Opals are bad luck to those not born in October and to take it off. I am still wearing it today, but getting a little weirded out. Is this true are they bad luck and if so where does it originate from culturally?

Suzi Q answers:

The idea that Opals bring bad luck dates back to Victorian times.

Mandy asks…

bad luck to wear opal?

have you heard that it is bad luck to wear opal if it is not your birthstone, i.e., if you were not born in october? can you tell me more about this belief?

Suzi Q answers:

Well, lots of people have diamond rings when they get married. What if that was not their birthstone? Oops, sorry, I know it’s bad to answer a question with another question.

Steven asks…

do you believe that wearing a opal is bad luck if it is not YOUR birthstone?

Suzi Q answers:

My beloved grandmother told me that, and must have believed it, for its one of the few stones I don’t have

Daniel asks…

Is it bad luck to buy yourself opal jewelry?

Suzi Q answers:

Unless it’s your birthstone, opals are considered bad luck in general whether or not you buy them for yourself.

Which as far as I am concerned is a very good reason not to be superstitious….I LOVE opals and they are not my birthstone. I would hate to give up wearing them because someone told me it was bad luck. I am inclined to believe that some of the “bad luck” lore was spread by those selling other gemstones to keep the competition down.

John asks…

Where can I get Black Opal for cheap online?

I usually get it at Wal*Mart for about $11, but the Wal*Mart here doesn’t sell Black Opal, which really is bad because I’ve been using their loose powder foundation for over 3 years now and it’s the only one I like that actually has my shade and doesn’t break my skin out. I’ve tried Covergirl and pretty much every other foundation, with no luck. Help, please! Thank you all so much for your answers and time! God Bless!

Suzi Q answers:

You find at for cheap

Sharon asks…

Do any of you have a Boider Opal or know about them?


Just wandering what your luck is with a Boider Opal?

I have had one break and it was replaced and it broke again. I had another one instead with a different shape, and it broke.

I have never had any opals break before. Is this usual with a Border Opal?

Thank you for your kind answer.

I do not get them wet. It is a necklace.
It is a Boider Opal, not a Border Opal. Sorry.

Suzi Q answers:

I think you must be referring to “Boulder Opal”. I have a large collection of opals, some are boulder opals.

It is unusual for an opal to break in a necklace since they don’t get the wear that rings do, unless the necklace gets dropped.

All opals have the same hardness of 3 on the hardness scale, which means that they are only harder than pearls and talc, and they aren’t tough either–but some are protected with a clear crystal top and a dark back material–they are called triplets—and there are some doublets, as well. Some opal material forms in such thin seams that it can’t be cut into a regular cabuchon shape like thicker opal material. That’s why it’s made into doublets or triplets.

The only thing that I can think of is that your opal may be in a pressure fit mounting, which may be exerting enough pressure to make it crack–but for it to happen several times? I can’t tell you. I’d be interested to know what your piece looks like. Could you possibly email me a photo?
My email is on my profile.

Charles asks…

Where are opals considered bad luck?

I don’t quite understand it.

Suzi Q answers:

Linda asks…

I just saw a show about the Bonaza Opal mines can anyone tell me if Opal is first wood that then…?

becomes petrified? or something and then changes to the beautiful opal stone?

I always heard opals where bad luck to wear?Maybe this is a Indian folk lore?

Thank you

Suzi Q answers:

Opals are not petrified. They are mineral deposits in rock that form the beautiful stone. Opal is very fragile, and is often sliced, then added a backing, covered by a crystal cap to protect it. It is considered bad luck to wear if it is not your birthstone by some cultures, others say that is you wear an Opal you best be true, or the Opal will work against you. I love the assorted colors and wear mine alot.

Richard asks…

are opals bad luck to wear if you aren’t born in October?

Suzi Q answers:

No, and superstitions are a baseless waste of time.

George asks…

if your birthstone is an opal and you give someone an opal for a present will that person have good luck?

Suzi Q answers:

There is a superstition that an opal you buy for yourself can bring you bad luck, but is not bad luck if received as a gift. However, there have been those as late as 1992 that an opal engagement ring is unlucky.

Donna asks…

Are opals bad luck?

My engagement ring is an eternity style band of fire opals, which are my favourite stones, I know it’s not traditional but that’s what my b/f picked out, and I love it. However, I have had a few negative comments about it and have even been told that opals are for tears, or are bad luck, I just wondered if anyone else has heard this before? It won’t change how I feel about my ring, as I love it, and he could not have chosen better.

Suzi Q answers:


Pearls are for tears.
Depends how superstitious you are!

Opal is supposed to be lucky only if its your birth stone (October)
personally i love opals and have earrings and a ring in different colours….(black, blue & opaque)and yes i was born in October!!

In Roman times the gem was carried as a good luck charm or talisman, as it was believed that the gem, like the rainbow, brought its owner good fortune. It was also referred to as the “Cupid stone” because it suggested the clear complexion of the god of love.

In the 7 th century it was believed that opals possessed magical properties and centuries later Shakespeare was attributed with the description of opal as “that miracle and queen of gems”.

The Arabs believed that they fell from the sky and the Orientals referred to them as “the anchor of hope”. Lucky opal – the stone of hope, the birthstone of October.

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  1. I was told that I would have bad luck if I wore an opal when I am born March. I do not believe this but when I held an opal reckless for my friend(who was born in October). I broke my leg by a kid who came out of the blue and was not in the area that day. I still believe it was me not noticing the kid. I would believe the myth if it happens again and again. I hope you can explain that or it was me not seeing the kid.Thanks a bunch

  2. Emily, I wish I could explain that. Those sorts of things could happen to anyone. Whether bad luck was a coincidence or not it is difficult, if not impossible to tell. I suspect it was you not seeing the kid. However ask someone else and they might say the opal caused bad luck.

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