Opal has long been subject of fascination. This is no wonder: opals are beautifully coloured gemstones with a pattern that reflects lights in such a way that the stone takes on a brilliant, coloured look, striking its viewers as if it was on fire. Opal was called the Queen of Gemstones by Shakespeare, for its ability to display all the colours of other gemstones – hence the origin of the name, the ancient Greek opallos which literally translates to ‘seeing a change of colour’. As Pliny the Elder writes, "...for in them you shall see the living fire of the ruby, the glorious purple of the amethyst, the sea green of the emerald, all glittering together in an incredible mixture of light." Indeed, according to the ancient Romans, opals were the most precious, most powerful gemstones of all. This may have also been due to their uniqueness: during the formation of opals, tiny spheres are formed in such a way that ensures that no two opals are the same.
The fascination, as we can see, is not undue. However, few might suspect that it can also inspire one to risk their lives and give up all their earthly possessions. Yet, exactly this is what Nonius, the Roman senator and possessor of an opal “as big as a hazelnut” did in refusing the offer of Mark Anthony who wanted to buy the stone as a present to his lover, Cleopatra.
Another famous lover, Queen Victoria, gifted a freehold title over a mine in Australia to the first importer of opal into the UK – who, gift and royal appreciation notwithstanding, was not able to kickstart an opal industry at the time, for the upper classes of England did not believe that such a unlikely beauty could be the work of nature, and not man.
If opal found avid devotees in two such important figures of English history – Queen Victoria and Shakespeare – it was not to be successful with a third: in his novel, Anne of Geierstein, Sir Water Scott manages to demonise opal, metaphorizing the gemstone as the soul of a demonic woman. This, alongside a malevolent campaign on the part of diamond-sellers, had as its result the decline in popularity of opal, due to its being perceived as a cause of misfortune.
But what is past, shall remain past. Today, there is no reason not to admire and wear opal, this unique gemstone reflecting not only light but histories and myths, the marks of appreciation for its beauty across times and cultures.
One way we, at our luxury jewellery studio of Augustine Jewels show this appreciation is through hiding the mysterious opal gemstone in one of our stunning Silver Egg Birthstone Pendant from our Birthstone Collection:
Our London-based designer jewellery studio, Augustine Jewels also offers bespoke services, designing the piece of jewellery of our clients' dreams in close cooperation with the client. Have a look at these hand-made bespoke pieces and do get in touch if you would like a consultation with our founder and designer, Alexandra. We can source the most valuable and exquisite gemstones and incorporate them in stunning jewellery- The piece of your dreams - be it opal or any other natural gemstone - is just a call away!