- In the 20th century, opals have been considered by many to be unlucky, especially as engagement rings, because they symbolize widowhood and tears. Those who know their astrology maintain, however, that the stone is lucky for those born under Libra. This modern prejudice against the opal is curious, as in the past it was a treasured and lucky stone, and it seems to have undergone a reversal of fortune as regards popular belief. Correspondence in N&Q in 1869 and 1875 states clearly that opals were regarded as unlucky stones by some people at the time, and other references (e.g. Fortnightly Review (July 1884), 85, and Addy, 1895: 93) add confirmation, but there are some dissenting voices which maintain that the colour of the opal makes the difference between good and bad luck. In classical times the opal was certainly treasured, and Pliny (Natural History (ad 77), xxxvii. xxi-xxii) devotes much space to it. It is not clear when or why the reversal occurred, although one or two theories have been advanced. Sir Walter Scott's novel Anne of Geierstein (1829), which features an unlucky opal, may perhaps take some of the blame for its bad reputation, but this remains speculation. Opals were also considered to be connected with eyesight, and there are hints that they conferred invisibility on the wearer (e.g. Ben Jonson, The New Inne (1631), i. vi).■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 294; N&Q 4s:3 (1869), 59, 154; 5s:3 (1875), 429, 475; 5s:4 (1875), 56, 97; 167 (1934), 458; 168 (1935), 30, 86.
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.
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