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Oct 20, 2020

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How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Opals

Though we’re in uncharted territory with spooky season this year, there’s one constant: the spectral and suspersition-laden October birthstone, the beautiful and beleaguered opal.

Perhaps you’ve heard the old superstition; maybe your grandma whispered it to you while you played in her jewelry box, or, more likely, maybe you encountered an old woman in a cemetery who shouted it at you before she disappeared into a mysterious cloud of vapor: 

“Don’t wear an opal unless it’s your birthstone!” 

Well there’s one man to blame for this: thanks a lot, Sir Walter Scott. Seriously– SWS wrote a novel in 1829 called Anne of Geierstein (or The Maiden in the Mist, if you’re pretentious) and one of the characters wore a prominent opal that changed color with her mood. Then some dude accidentally sprinkled holy water on it (typical) and it lost its luster. So… she died. Logic leads the reasonable mind to assume the stone killed her. And let me tell you, if anything besides cholera was pervasive in 1829, it was logic. So the poor opal– beloved, lovely and thought to be lucky for literally millenia prior– became lapide non grata. Opal sales dropped by 50% after the book’s publication and now, almost two centuries later, the superstition still echoes. 

But time passes. Old women whisper less about allegedly cursed stones. And now the opal is enjoying a rightful renaissance. 

Frankly, it’s the kind of stone that deserves a renaissance: the kind of stone that the Bedouins thought fell from the sky containing captured lightning. The kind of stone that’s compared to fireworks and galaxies. The kind of stone that deserves to be worn by everyone, not just October babies. 

Two pieces of boulder opal that is found only in Queensland. Photo: Robert Weldon/GIA

Primarily mined in Australia (but found in other places globally, like Ethiopia), opals contain spectral color: ghostly whispers of rainbows floating within. And while most precious opals demonstrate color flashes called “play of color,” each type of opal does so in a wholly unique palette. Jelly (also called crystal or water) opals are clearish yellow stones that appear to be embedded with vibrant pieces of iridescent glitter. Black opals are mysteriously dark and reflect a rainbow starscape. White, or light opals are lively and bright with a pastel-hued burst of color. Fire opals are vivid orangey-red and pop with sparks. Boulder opals generally come embedded in the matrix of the rock from which they were mined, creating a “nature cracked open” kind of vibe. 

So here’s to the fabulous opal in all it’s kaleidoscopic glory! Let us wrest it from the hands of superstition and wear it proudly, each of us carrying our own private rainbow.

Morgan Patricia Designs

Coral Reef Ring

This ocean-inspired ring by Morgan Patricia features the perfect setting for this stunning central stone, especially considering opals are composed of 20% water. Channel your inner Ursula!

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LORIANN Jewelry

Opal And Diamond Ear Climber Earrings

No need to go looking for sunshine after the next rainshower: if you’re wearing these fiery opal climbers, you’ll always have a rainbow nearby.

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Ochre Objects

Opal Ovate I Ring

A fiery little comet of an opal surrounded by twinkling stars–this ring is a wearable galaxy.

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LORIANN Jewelry

Opal, Tanzanite, and Diamond Pendant

This geometric combination of stones is full of pastel sparks and violet glimmers will make you feel like you’re wearing a flower bouquet that’ll last forever.

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Meredith Young

Opal Diamond Climbers

These hypnotic climbers feature Ethiopian Welo opals, known for their golden-tinged pools of iridescence. (Fun fact: this was also the much-desired stone featured in the film Uncut Gems!) 

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