Why are opals considered unlucky?

The origin of the superstition that the opal is an unlucky stone and will bring misfortune and ill luck to its owner is obscure. Among the ancients the opal was prized above most other precious stones. According to Pliny, a Roman senator named-Nonius-had-a large and, beautiful opal that he valued at the equivalent of five thousand dollars. Nonius preferred exile to letting the gem fall into the hands of Mark Antony. Some writers believe the superstition about opals being unlucky dates back only to the fourteenth century, when they were unfavorably associated with the Black Death. In those days it was said in Italy, particularly Venice, that such gems worn by persons stricken with the plague suddenly turned brilliant and then lost their luster when the owner died. Others believe it originated in the mythology of Scandinavia. The Edda tells of a Norse god who fashioned a gem from the eyes of children. This gem was called yaikstein and may have been the opal. Opal is believed to be- derived from a Greek word meaning a gem or precious stone, which appears to have been associated with the eye among the Greeks. One supposition is that the opal became associated with ill luck because, like the evil eye, it invaded the privacy of the wearer. The association of the opal with the eyeballs persisted for centuries. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth a man named Batman wrote: “The optallius keepeth and saveth the eye of him that bear and dimmeth other men’s eyes so that it in a manner maketh them blind, so that they may not see what is done before them, so that it is said to be the patron of thieves.” Much of the modern superstition no doubt owes its origin to Sir Walter Scott’s story entitled Anne of Geierstein, published in 1829, where the opal is- represented as an unlucky stone inviting misfortune and unhappiness to the possessor. Scott may have been author of the superstition. At any rate, since that time the opal has been regarded as unlucky and superstitious people refuse to wear it. This prejudice against the opal became a real obstacle to its commercial distribution. It was a favorite of Queen Victoria who did much to reinstate the stone in public favor. She demonstrated her preference for the gem in many ways, partly no doubt in the interests of her subjects in Australia where fine opals are produced. When an opal mine was opened in that country the British Queen wore some of- the stones in an effort to popularize them. Only a generation ago an Australian firm, because of the superstition, undertook to exploit opals under the name iridots, which was suggested by the Greek word meaning “rainbow.”