October's birthstone has a rich and varied history as befitting these magical gems.

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Opals can be found in white or black with the iridescent color play associated with opals. More common opals, such as fire opals, tend to come in a single color, usually a deep fiery orange or red, which have a beauty of their own.

Prized in Roman times, opal was praised by Pliny the Elder as possessing all the glories of the most precious stones. The finest opal in modern times was owned by Empress Josephine of France, a gem called The Burning of Troy. The stone disappeared after Napoleon’s downfall.

Opal’s popularity plummeted in the early 19th century, which many have attributed to Sir Walter Scott’s novel Anne of Geterstein, as a character’s personality was drastically altered by the presence or absence of an opal. The gemstone regained its status thanks to Queen Victoria’s appreciation and use of the stones.

Like many gems, opals were believed to shield the wearer from contagion and to warn off the presence of poison by losing its play of colors. Interestingly enough, opals have also been worn by those who wanted their hair to remain blonde.

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