Gemstone Lore: Opal - The Mysterious Lady Hermione

| 3 min read

The captivating and magical play of colour, or 'opalescence', found in most types of Opal – with the finest displaying every colour of the rainbow – has made it a much revered gem. Opals have been associated with royalty and good luck for centuries. Shakespeare referred to it as "that miracle and queen of gems". It wasn't until more recent times that the gem became the object of many unfounded, negative superstitions. Fortunately, their beauty and uniqueness has made their owners disregard these superstitions.

Mineralogist George Kunz noted in his book 'The Curious Lore of Precious Stones' that a novel written by Sir Walter Scott changed the previously positive perception of Opal. In 1829, Sir Walter wrote the gothic novel 'Anne of Geierstein'. The wonderful tale speaks of an enchanted princess who appears from time to time in the novel, always wearing her hair in a golden clasp with a dazzling Opal talisman. Walter Scott wrote, “Amid the changing lights peculiar to that gem, displayed internally a slight tinge of red like a spark of fire.” The gem would change colour depending on her mood as if it sympathised with her emotions.

Opal Gemstone

During the tale, Lady Hermione attended a christening. As she entered the chapel, the father of the baby, the Baron of Arnheim, dipped his finger in the font offering holy water to his wife. He then placed the remaining drops on Lady Hermione's forehead. One of the drops splashed onto her Opal talisman. A brilliant light like a fallen star flew out of the Opal and all the colour drained from the gem, leaving it as "colourless as a common pebble".

Opals have been associated with royalty and good luck for centuries.

Lady Hermione collapsed on the floor in pain. Within a short space of time her health and pulse quickly deteriorated and it was clear that she was dying. Her husband took her to her room. When he returned a couple of hours later, all that remained of Lady Hermione was a handful of ashes.

Since Opal is the birthstone of October, people believed that it was unlucky to wear Opal unless you were born in October. However this is not based on any experience or ancient belief. In fact throughout history the gem has been regarded as one of the most magical and luckiest, because it could show all the colours at once. Arabic legends say that it falls from the heavens during thunderstorms. The Ancient Greeks believed that Opals gave them prophesy and guarded them from many diseases. Europeans consider the gem a symbol of hope, purity and truth.



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