The Secret Life of Opals
Opal was the chapter in Victoria Finlay's Jewels: A Secret History that made me want to write The Secret Life of Gems blog series. Finlay turned my prejudice against opals upside down. I found myself wanting to visit the local gem dealer for a clandestine meeting where he would pull out his most precious opals and reveal their deepest secrets.
Seriously, until reading the chapter on opals in Jewels: A Secret History, I usually snubbed my nose at these gems. I really didn't get them, and I certainly had no appreciation for them. For me, opals were like a challenging food I tasted as a kid and decided never to go there again.
The first surprise was discovering that today most opals are mined in the outback of Australia. That was enough for me to sit up and take notice. Gorgeous landscapes, rough riders, and a burning sun spell adventure and romance to me...I'm hooked, sign me up!
From interesting characters scouring the outback to an ancient Roman senator choosing exile over relinquishing his prized opal, Victoria Finlay paints a picture of curiosity. Who wouldn't be intrigued by buried cat bones turning into rose opals or making glittering stones in glass jars? This chapter made me scratch my head and ponder opals afresh.
One of the most interesting reveals on opals, is the story of how they may have acquired the reputation for being a bad luck stone. In the nineteenth century, Sir Walter Scott wrote Anne of Geierstein a spooky ghost novel, where a mystery lady called Hermione is magically linked to her favorite opal. After giving birth, a drop of holy water falls on Hermione's mystical opal and changes into lifeless and colorless stone. In the novel, the opal mirrors Hermione's every mood and aptly foretells her demise into a pile of grey ashes. Who'd want to wear opals after reading this scary novel?
Well, of course Anne of Geierstein may have not been the only reason for opal's bad reputation, and I'm still skeptical of all that flashy color, but adventuring through Victoria Finlay's Jewels: A Secret History sure makes me stop and wonder what I've been missing out on by letting my prejudice get the best of my curiosity.