October Birthstone Opal
The Opal, which has its root in the Latin word "opalus", meaning precious jewel, has been lauded the world over for centuries in no small part due to the fact that the gem refracts and reflects specific wavelengths of light. The ancient Romans called the gem, "Cupid Paederos," which signified they thought the gem was like a child as beautiful as love. Ancient Greeks thought that the opal had the power of foresight. Even Cleopatra, the Egyptian ruler, is believed to have worn one to attract the attentions of Marc Antony. Finally, an ancient Arabic legend states that opals were created in a fiery flash of lightning from Heaven itself.
The truth is that opals, which are non-crystallized silica, are minerals found near the Earth's surface. It is structurally similar in composition to quartz but with nearly 10 percent more water. Opals have been with us since pre-historic times. Most opals are found in Southern Australia. However, deposits of the luminous gem have been taken from areas in Brazil, Mexico, Czechoslovakia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ireland and parts of the Southwestern United States.
Opals hold a special significance for the Aboriginal tribes of Australia. They believe that the gems have a strong spiritual value. Opals are considered to be remnants of an ancestor who has left the jewel behind specifically for the purpose of reminding his/her survivors that he/she had roamed the Earth. The Wangkumara people tell a story in which their ancestors created fire from opals, with the assistance of a Muda, a special Creator entity who alternated between human and pelican form.
Opals, which are generally white or colorless, are very delicate. Extreme caution must be used when cutting the gems as they can crack. Harsh chemicals and heat may also lead to drying and destruction of this precious gem.
Up until the fourteenth century, the opal was considered a harbinger of hope and the bearer was promised protection from infection, impurities and overall bad health. However, after the Black Death swept Europe, the opal was believed to be the cause of it. Some superstitious folk noticed that the color of the gem would change as the wearer became more ill. Actually, the gem's color did change, but it wasn't due to anything sinister. The opal is very sensitive to temperature changes. If the wearer went from feverish to cold, for example, the opal would be bound to change appearance.
In Elizabethan England, the opal came back in fashion. It was renowned for its beauty. Shakespeare referred to it as "the queen of gems" in his play, Twelfth Night. Even Queen Victoria gave it to her children as a gift.
Despite its varied history and sensitive nature, the opal is still a popular gemstone. It is the preferred gem for those born in the month of October, although the Pink Tourmaline can be given as an acceptable substitute. Opals are beautiful, powerful and iridescent. They radiate an extraordinary and positive energy. Just be careful with them.
Birthstones: January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December
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