Opal
Gemstone of quartz or silica, praised by Pliny the Elder (ca.
23–79 C.E.), who wrote ‘‘For in them you shall see the living fire
of the ruby, the glorious purple of the amethyst, the green sea
of the emerald, all glittering together in an incredible mixture
of light.’’ In ancient times many legends existed around its
claimed virtues. It was believed to recreate the heart, ward off
airborne contagions, and dispel sadness. It was also good for
weak eyes. The name poederos, applied to the opal, refers to the
complexion of youth.
The superstition that opals were unlucky seems to have been
popularized by Sir Walter Scott’s novel Anne of Geirstein (1829).
The story claims the opal worn by Baroness Hermione of Arnheim
lost its luster after a drop of water touched it