Opals: A Time When They Were Cursed

It’s October! A time for Fall Festivals, Daylight Savings Time, and October Birthdays! Oh and of course Halloween! Being in the New England area you cannot escape this holiday, not that I want to. Part of the fun of Halloween is the spooky stories. So I thought for this post I would look at the time opals were considered bad luck.  Opals are referenced in many cultures, aborigines believed opals were the ‘creator’s footprint that touched the earth at the base of a rainbow to bring harmony.’ Which is similar to an Arabic legend stating opals fall ‘from the heavens in flashes of lightning.’ Whatever way you describe them the flashes of color are undeniably breathtaking. It’s hard to think anyone could see these stones as bad luck.


The bad luck started in 1829 after a popular novel written by Walter Scott, Anne of Geuerstein, made this reference to opals. The plot entailed, ‘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.’ I see this as fiction and not to be interpreted literally but the public at the time viewed this story differently. The way the public interpreted the text, ‘to mean that this genius author was warning of the bad luck an opal can bring, so they stopped buying the beautiful gemstone.’ You read that correctly, the public stopped buying opals and the opal market plummeted 50% within a few months of the novel’s publication. The market stayed down almost 50 years.

What brought opals back in fashion? A celebrity endorsement, by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Prince Albert was fond of opals and had jewelry for his Queen made with several.

Painting of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Queen is wearing an opal tiara in this picture

One notable one was the Oriental Circlet a tiara made in 1853 by Garrard and designed by Albert. The Queen’s daughter-in-law had many of the opal jewelry switched out with rubies but I have photo shopped some opals in to recreate this tiara to its former beauty.


The tiara as it is now with rubies. From my research it seems Alexandra was a bit of a believer in the opal superstitions, or didn’t want to take any chances.


Which do you like better the rubies or the opals?

Prince Albert’s love of opals was not enough to shake the curse, Queen Victoria who openly thought this superstition nonsense bought opal jewelry for her daughters as wedding gifts. This was a major sign of approval. Buying a wedding gift must be thoughtfully picked and there are plenty of superstitions associated with being married. This gesture made it clear if it was good enough for the Queen and her family then there was reason anyone else could give to counter that. This seemed to put opals back in fashion and have remained sought after gems ever since. Below is a pair of gemstone earrings owned by Queen Victoria that have some white opals included.


Do you have any jewelry that you felt held a strange power or had occurrences that you couldn’t explain? Had you heard the superstition that opals were bad luck? Do you own any opals? I have seen plenty at the auctions and they aren’t cursed enough for them not to get a decent bid! Below are a few I’ve enjoyed viewing. Hope you enjoyed the article and come back for more treats from Data in the Rough!