The October birthstone is Opal.
That’s a simple enough statement, isn’t it? This is a post about the properties of this month’s birthstone, but let’s be real, most of us have had enough surface-level metaphysical speak to last two lifetimes. So let’s dig down deep. What exactly is a birthstone? And while we’re at it, what exactly is an opal? It’s time to pull out the sifter and get down to the fine sediment of the matter.
There is power in gemstones. It’s hard to articulate just what it is – which is why the market is so saturated with jargon that sits somewhere between flimsy sentimentality and pseudopsychiatry – but hold the right rock in your hand, and the feeling of it is undeniable. Some people say the stones pulse, some say they tingle, others say they emit heat. Whatever the feeling is, it’s something very primal; perhaps it’s as simple as our bodies recognizing that we’re all connected, that all living things are made of the same stuff, and that we can heal one another in unexpected ways.
According to The American Gem Society, birthstones are believed to have originated with the breastplate of Aaron, sacred armor described in the book of Exodus which was worn by the high priest of the Israelites. It had 12 stones, each representing a tribe of Israel. In the centuries following, scholars noted the connection between the 12 tribes and the 12 months.
The idea of a person wearing their birth month’s birthstone can be traced back to jewelers in 18th century Poland. Fast track to 1912 with the intermingling of the Zodiac, the Chinese concept of “Qi,” and Vedic astrological tradition … and modern birthstones are born.
This brings us to the opal. The opal was one of the stones listed in 1912. Later, tourmaline was added as a secondary October birthstone. But we’ll stay with the original for now.
Opals are known for their unique flashes of color, called fire. All gem-quality opals are the product of seasonal rains that drench the dry ground in arid regions. That’s why they are so rare. It also explains why the most substantial opal mines are found in Australia, Ethiopia, and Nevada. The colors in every stone reflect the circumstances of its formation – the temperature, pressure, and surrounding mineral composites – each opal wears its history on its sleeve for the world to see and admire. If opals had sleeves, that is.
Q: Where did Alexander the Great keep his armies?
A: In his sleevies.
The metaphysical properties of opal are quite intuitive. How do you feel when you wear an opal? You guessed it: it’s known as a stone of joy.
It’s said to bring the full spectrum of light into one’s life, soothing and clearing the emotional body, and boosting a person’s experience of joy in their earthly incarnation. It inspires creativity, optimism, and enthusiasm. The fiery nature of an opal is said to provoke flashes of inspiration and insight. At the same time, it is a highly protective stone for meditation and deep inner work.
Perhaps you’ve heard the rumor that it’s bad luck to buy yourself an opal? It’s a common superstition with a fascinating origin. And luckily for opal lovers the world-over it’s just a myth.
Opals have been blamed for all sorts of calamities in history.
The young bride of 19th century Spanish King Alfonzo XII received an opal ring as a wedding gift from one of Alfonzo’s spurned lovers, and the young Queen died within two months. The ring was then passed on to other women in the family who also mysteriously died one after the other. Eventually Alfonzo himself took the ring, and sure enough, he died too.
Of course the opal ring was entirely to blame … not the cholera epidemic sweeping the nation.
With the more, shall we say, scientific outlook gaining popularity in recent centuries, the lore of the bad luck opal has faded into history. One of the reasons precious gems are so popular is because of all the history within them – both geologically and mythologically. When it comes to lore, opal is by far one of the most fascinating stones around.
Opals are said to be a stone of transformation, picking up thoughts, feelings, and buried emotions as it reflects and refracts the light around it. It enhances and illuminates the positive aspects of life, fostering one’s ability to reach their highest self. It’s fun to think that perhaps the ancient civilizations who saw opals as cursed were experiencing a sort of collective purging.
Perhaps they were absorbing all the negativity from the world around them and instead of internalizing it, they simply blamed it on the stone.
There are worse things.
You never can tell how a stone will work on you.
From an ancient breastplate to a cursed Spanish ring, opals are saturated with historical significance. October babies are lucky to have such a fascinating, joyous, and transformative stone at their disposal.
Notes on Opal
- Solid Australian opals must be watered to keep from cracking
- Ethiopian opals do not like water – they will lose their fire when immersed in water
- The most expensive opal, the “Virgin Rainbow,” is worth over $1M
- Opal is one of the softest stones around – aka the easiest to shatter