There is no other gemstone that has inspired as many legends, stories and superstitions like Opal. Opal was and will always be one of the most popular gemstones.
When diving into the story of Opals, where does one start? In any case, it is important to say that the Opal has been well known since ancient times.
Our first story comes from ancient Rome, who has not heard of Mark Antony and his passionate love for Cleopatra? Well, this love and an exquisite Opal caused the misfortune of a popular Roman Senator. His name was Nonius and he had an impressive jewel and gemstone collection. One of the most magnificent pieces of the collection was an Opal, said to be the most beautiful Opal which was ever seen. Marc Antony decided that there was no better gift for his Cleopatra than this Opal. Unfortunately, the gems’ owner was very unwilling to part with it despite the large sums of money offered by Marc Antony. Nonius knew the Roman general very well and knew that he would not give in so decided to flee. Nonius left Rome for Alexandria with everything he had – including the precious collection and the coveted Opal. And so it was, that Cleopatra did not get the Opal, Marcus Antonius remained angry, Rome lost an important politician and Nonius remained in Alexandria until the end of his days, without ever separating from his Opal.
It has been believed that the Opal is able to prevent eye diseases. A witty legend has it, that the carrier of an Opal could be invisible … which is why thieves were penalized when caught with them!
In the Middle Ages young blond girls were endowed with an Opal, the gem was believed to ensure her hair remained blonde until her adulthood. I prefer the hairdresser’s touch for my hair colour – but I wear Opals regardless of my hair!
The best known Opals today are from Australia. The quality of Australian Opals was previously unknown in Europe making it initially very hard for these gems to become established on the market. No one could believe the incredible play of colours was genuine or 100% natural. Opals were also unpopular at the time because of the novel “Anne of Geierstein” by Sir Walter Scott published in 1829, in which the heroine Lady Hermione is destroyed by an Opal. The book became a bestseller and the Opal reached the status of an “misfortune bringer” and its value fell by 70%! All this because of a novel! Well, at that time incredible things happened in the hype of “Bestsellers”, for example, “Werther” by Goethe not only ensured that all young men wore green jackets, but also that Central Europe was plagued by a wave of suicide attempts. But let’s get back to Opals – 50 years later, the first pieces came from Australia to London and were still taken with scepticism.
Queen Victoria and her love of Opal
Queen Victoria of Britain did not like best-sellers, she was not superstitious and certainly not stupid! The Queen immediately spotted the potential of the Australian gems. Victoria promoted the mining of Opals, Opal jewellery production and trade of Opals. She wore Opals at every diplomatic meeting to steer attention towards the beautiful gemstones. Indeed, shortly afterwards the Australian Opal became the object of desire throughout Europe. Victoria was a brilliant business woman! To this day, the members of the British Royal family very often – and very happily – wear Opals of spectacular quality, purchased by Queen Victoria for the royal collection.
As early as 1875 very nice Opal pieces were found in the hills of Kyabra in South East Queensland, but not until 1889, did the first pieces enter the London market, thus establishing in England the solid Opal industry as we know today.
In 1903 the enchanting Black opals from Lightning Ridge appeared for the first time on the market – still now they remain the most desirable opals in the world – and in 1915, the largest deposits of White Opal in the world were discovered in Coober Pedy.
Discover the enchanting Opals in our Rocks & Co Outlet. In our collections you will find wonderful pieces from Ethiopia and Indonesia and for those who love traditional luxury, we have Black Opals from Lightning Ridge, as well as other varieties from Australia.
For me, it would certainly be unimaginable to have a world without Opals!