The Unlucky Stone

Joint project of St.-Petersburg Mining museum and Forpost Nord-West.
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад /

Beauty is power. Surprisingly, the same statement may be applied with success to the world of minerals. At all times, people were ready to do a lot to gain natural wealth. Thus, to get their hands on one of the most beautiful gems on the planet, people were killing, betraying and plotting against each other at the state-level scale. Some believe the stone was a reason for the tragic deaths of both English and French queens as well as of the last ever Royal family of the Russian Empire.

Opal is a stone that can be hardly mixed with one another, since it has a unique color. The attitude to the mineral was mixed though and changed a lot throughout the history - there were times when people believed it was a sacred stone and, quite the opposite, times when they were drowning it in the rivers being sure that the stone is a carrier of cholera and pox.

Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

The stone’s unsavoury reputation did not appear out of nowhere - numerous tragic events had happened in the past. The Emperor Caligula, known for its atrocity, untruthfulness and jealousy, fancied opal stone a lot. However, according to the ancient legends, the owner of the stone should be a person with pure thoughts in mind. The remarkable fact is that a week prior to the murder of the Emperor took place his favourite stone had turned dark and its face had become fractured. In Ancient Rome and Greece, the gemstone was considered a stone of hope. There is a legend that the Roman Senator Nonnus had an opal of incredible beauty, even Marc Antony (Marcus Antonius) envied him because of that. The Emperor tried to negotiate with Nonnus, for he was ready to pay any amount of money for the mineral. The stone’s owner, however, did not accept the offer, and Antony sentenced the Senator to exile. Nonnus obeyed and refused taking untold riches but left the stone for himself.

In Russia, at the time of Catherine the Great, due to diplomatic etiquette rules it was forbidden to wear jewellery with opal at the banquets and balls. There was a case when at the ball in Saint-Petersburg a representative of the French Embassy was noticed with opal necklace. The lady was immediately approached by her Majesty’s Chamberlain and was asked to either take the necklace off or leave the room, because, in the opinion of the Empress, the mineral was bringing misfortune and sowing the seeds of strife. The French lady became outraged and immediately saw herself out of the room.

 Quite often the opals are blamed as the reason of the tragic events that happened to the Romanovs. The Emperor Alexander the Second liked the stone and gifted numerous jewels made with opal to his beloved one, the Princess Catherine Dolgorukov - including the opal stamp for letters. She used this stamp to seal the letter she sent to the King on the day of his death at the hands of terrorists. Though it was the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna - the wife of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of the Russian Empire - who set a trend on the opal jewellery. The Empress herself had a unique collection of jewels, including the ones with opals. After the Royal Family had been executed, people were gossiping about it and kept thinking for years that the gems were the cause of the those tragical deaths.

Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

In turn, in the East, black opal was called a stone of hope. People believed opal was healing all sorts of chronic diseases and wore opal gemstones framed in the gold setting on the right index finger.

The Australian people have ’fire opal’ for the name of the stone; they also believe it to be the sign of the Creator of the Universe. These days, the mineral is an officially recognised symbol of the continent.

Astrologists believe that opal brings success in all endeavours, but only on condition that its owner is a noble man who has managed to overcome selfishness and greed. Opal is the most suitable mineral for representatives of creative professions; it helps get past the crises. On the other hand, it is not recommended to wear opal jewellery on a constant basis, without taking it off from time to time. The reason is the powerful energy of the stone, which might cause fear of darkness and nervousness. The most optimal suggestion is to use opal only when there is a real need in it.

Opals are not usually valued in carats. The price usually depends on the beauty of the stone itself. Therefore, some varieties of this mineral are even more expensive than diamonds. The most expensive ones are black opals - one item may cost over 300 USD.

Actually, opal is not officially a mineral, because it lacks a crystal lattice. Instead, it belongs to hydrogels and is composed of up to 30% water. When the temperature of the human body rises, the water begins to evaporate, the stone fades and loses its luster. Being aware of it, in the 19th century healers took advantage of this fact to make diagnostics of the body. If the stone changed its appearance, it may have been seen as a sign of a disease in its early stage.