Why is it bad luck to wear opals if you weren't born in October?

By: Debra Ronca  | 
An opal stone on a necklace.
Opals have had a long history, but they continue to be one of the most interesting and precious stones out there.
Thomas Demarczyk/Thinkstock

Every month has a birthstone associated with it. If you were born in the month of October, your birthstone is the opal. Perhaps more than any stone, the opal is cloaked in mystery and legend. But are opals bad luck?

The opal's reputation as a harbinger of bad luck is well documented. It's said that wearing an opal ring, or an opal talisman, will bring bad luck to those born with a different birthstone. The popular opal superstition likely came about from a blend of the mystical power of the opal, stories of the opal in literature, and stiff competition in the precious gem trade.


Opal Superstitions Of Yore

Opal superstitions have shifted and changed over the years. Centuries ago, the opal was considered a good luck charm. It was cherished by the Romans as a symbol of hope, the ancient Greeks believed the opal gave its owner the gift of prophecy, and the Arabians believed that the colourful stone rained from heaven in flashes of lightning.

In the Middle Ages, people believed the opal was essential to good eyesight, and young women wore them in their hair to ensure their hair color would never fade [source: Opals Down Under].


The opal may have been so widely revered because of the way the stone plays with color. Made up of microscopic spheres of silica with spaces between them, the opal refracts light in different ways. Because of this, opals appear in nature in all different colors.

How The Opal Became Bad Luck

It wasn't until much later that the opal earned a reputation as the bad luck stone. A rumour linking the peculiar behaviour of an opal worn by a victim of the Black Plague proved to be the undoing of the precious stone. Legend has it that the opal went dull following the victim's death, an unsettling occurrence indeed.

In another story, a Spanish king gave a cursed opal ring to his wife, who fell ill shortly therafter. As the story goes, the King then decided to give the ring to his grandmother, who also died from the same weird illness. The tragedy continued with his sister and his sister-in-law, until the Spanish King finally put the ring on his own finger and passed away.


One of the worst blows to the opal's reputation came in the form of the 1829 novel "Anne of Geierstein" by Sir Walter Scott. The opal changed color with the heroine's moods. Then when her opal is touched by holy water, it discolors. She is accused of being a demon and dies shortly after. The public was so affected by this story that the opal market actually crashed and prices dropped by 50 percent [source: Pegg].

Jealous Diamond Traders and the Opal’s Tarnished Reputation

The enchanting allure of the ancient opal made it a beloved gemstone for many throughout history. However, its reputation took a significant hit in the 18th and 19th centuries, and while Sir Walter Scott's novel "Anne of Geierstein" is frequently cited as a cause, there's another, more insidious angle to consider: the role of diamond traders.

Seeing the rising popularity of opals as a threat to the diamond market, disgruntled diamond traders and jewelers purportedly began to spread rumors about the opal's supposed bad luck. Their motivations were clear: by tarnishing the reputation of opals, they aimed to bolster the diamond's status as the premier gemstone for jewelry and do damage to the reputations of prominent opal miners.


Queen Victoria and the Renaissance of the Opal

Queen Victoria, who reigned over the British Empire from 1837 to 1901, played a significant role in the fashion and cultural trends of her time, not just in Britain but across the world. Her influence extended to jewelry trends, and among the gemstones she favored was the opal.

Her decision to, among other things, wear opal pins was not just a matter of aesthetics; it was also, in many ways, a statement against the belief that they brought bad luck.


The late 19th century saw the discovery of opal deposits in Australia, particularly in places like Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge. Recognizing the potential of this new source and the stunning quality of Australian opals, the Queen became an early patron, further boosting their popularity.

Opals in Pop Culture

Over time, the mesmerizing allure of opals has permeated various forms of popular culture. The presence of black opals, specifically in movies, literature, and music, often comes with themes of mystery, passion, and good fortune. Recently, the award winning film "Uncut Gems" incorporated the lucky opal superstition, going so far as to suggest that black opals possessed magical properties.

Musicians, too, have succumbed to the opal's allure. The band "Opal" in the 1980s, which later became "Mazzy Star", draws a direct reference. Numerous songs and albums, spanning genres from rock to ambient, have been inspired by or referenced opals, often using the gem as a metaphor for ephemeral beauty, deep emotion, or profound change.


Celebrating the Magnificent Opal

Opals, shimmering with an internal fire and bursting with stories, history, and cultural significance, are undeniably among the most captivating coloured gemstones on Earth. They are more than just adornments; they're reflections of humanity's shared myths, beliefs, and emotions.

Each type tells its own story, and every individual stone, with its unique patterns and colors, is like a fingerprint—no two are exactly alike. It's represented bad luck for centuries, thanks in large part to the black plague. Still, the wonderful opal owes much of it's popularity to this unrelenting superstition.


Opals FAQs

What do opals symbolize?
Opals symbolize hope, purity and innocence. The stone has also been associated with faithfulness, happiness and confidence.
What is the most expensive opal?
The Virgin Rainbow, a rare crystal opal is valued at $750,000.
Do opals bring good luck?
The ancient Romans believed opals to bring good luck. People in the Middle Ages thought opals contained positive properties because of their vibrant colors.
What effects do opals have on wearers?
Folklore says that an opal depicts the changing moods of the one who wears it. It makes the wearer more emotionally expressive and carefree. Opals are alleged to inspire, and stimulate the mind in terms of creativity. Additionally, they are also alleged to cause psychic visions.
How do opals benefit the human body?
Some people claim that opals are beneficial to the human body and its inner workings. These include purifying the blood, treating fevers and infections, regulating insulin, alleviating the pain caused during PMS and even easing childbirth.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Opals Down Under. "Are Opals Bad Luck?" 2014. (Dec. 16, 2014) http://www.opalsdownunder.com.au/learn-about-opals/introductory/are-opals-bad-luck
  • Pegg, David. "25 Most Popular Superstitions Around The World." List 25. June 12, 2013. (Dec. 16, 2014) http://list25.com/25-strangest-superstitions-ever/
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources. "Traditional Birthstones - Opal (October)." 2014. (Dec. 16, 2014) http://snr.unl.edu/data/geologysoils/birthstones/opal.asp