The Popularity of the Opal
Superstition is apt to fade away in the strenuous life of the twentieth century, and our return to commonsense shows itself in the modern fancy for opals. October is the opal month, and the stone is often worn by women who were born in October. Of these are Lady Deerhurst, wife of Lord Decr-hurst; and Lady de Bathe, even now better known as Mrs. Langtry. Several society women have fine sets of opals and diamonds. Of these are Lady Sligo, Lady Beauchamp, Lady Norah Brassey, and Lady Aline Vivian, sister to Lord Portarlington, who likes opals so well that she wore them as a bride at her wedding. Lady Beauchamp has a complete parure, tiara, necklace, brooches, and earrings of big opals set in diamonds. This was given her by Lord Beauchamp, who collected them when in Australia.
Opals have met with approval by Royalty. Queen Victoria presented each of her daughters on their marriage with a set of fine opals, so these luminous gems are worn by Princess Christian, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, and Princess Henry of Battenberg. The opal has given rise to some pretty fancies. In ancient Mexico it was held most sacred; the Greeks - who loved beauty - cared much for the opal; and many Turks still believe that it is found in no earthly mine. but descends from above in a flash of lightning.
It is not only the month jewel of October, but is also a moon gem, and should be worn on Monday, and by those who were born under the moon as a planetary influence. Opals look well set in diamonds and also in silver, which is the moon metal.
Also green and blue
This stone has one defect - its extreme softness; and one great advantage - it can ever be imitated.
The amethyst is a gem that of late has risen markedly in popular favour. It is the stone for February, and should be worn for luck on a Thursday.
Amethyst is the term applied to a variety of quartz which differs from common quartz and rock crystal chiefly in its violet-blue and purplish-violet colouring. These tints are exquisite, and make the stone, although not costly, most becoming as an ornament. It is hard enough to scratch glass, and in the scale of hardness comes after the zircon and tourmaline, but before the peridot, moonstone, garnet, opal, and turquoise.
The best or Oriental a m e-thysts come from India, Ceylon, Persia, Brazil, and Siberia; the common variety can be found in Europe, and occurs in Sweden, Germany, Wales, and various parts of Scotland. This latter variety of amethyst is more of a rock crystal, but the Oriental amethyst is a variety of corundum, and in reality a purple sapphire.
Every stone, like the proverbial dog, has its day, and the history of the amethyst shows that it has enjoyed at least two "days" before its present rise in popularity. In the Middle Ages it was reckoned as equal in value to the diamond.
Cameos and intagli of a very distant date are met with in amethyst. As a rule, stones of a pale colour were used for engraving rather than the dark variety. A century ago there was found in India an amethyst of a rich, deep violet tint, engraved on which was a head of Mithridates, which is said to be the finest Greek portrait in existence. During the Napoleonic wars, too, an amethyst with the head of Pan cut on it was taken from the Prussian Treasury and placed in the Uzielli collection.
In the British Isles it enjoyed a period of favour, for Queen Charlotte had a necklace of stones perfectly matched in size and colour, which was valued in her day (also the amethyst's day) at 2,000. But now, although the gem is again popular, the necklace would fail to realise even 200.
A necklet of amethysts. These beautiful stones have been from time immemorial a favourite with the jeweller and the engraver, and specimens from classic days are to be seen in museums and private collections
Royalty ever leads the way in fashion, and amethysts were brought into favour a few years ago by Queen Alexandra. Her Majesty wore a most beautiful set of amethysts and diamonds at the wedding of the Crown Prince and Princess of Sweden; and since that time she has often given brooches and pendants of these stones as wedding-presents to her favourite god-daughters. She also buys Scotch amethysts in Edinburgh and at Balmoral.
The Queen of Spain added also to the passion for amethysts. She has a fancy for this stone, and is said to prefer it as an ornament to some of its more costly companions. And the Queen of Italy has a splendid set of these stones, which she wore during a visit at Windsor Castle.
Several of our society women own beautiful amethysts. Lady Londonderry wears some in the form of big brooches, each set in a border of fine diamonds. Lady Lichfield has a parure of these stones, and so has Lady Chesterfield. And one now sees their rich, purple sparkle in chains, rings, brooches, bracelets, and pendants.
Amethysts have many uses. They are still comparatively cheap, they are hard and not easily broken, and are the only coloured stones that can be worn in mourning. They look at their best when worn by a blonde, or at any rate, by a woman with a good complexion.
They go well with a yellow gown, such as chiffon or crepe-de-chine, when worn in the evening. The brightness of diamonds increases the beauty of amethysts, but an artistic jeweller will sometimes set them in pearls, in dull gold, or even in oxidised silver. The amethyst is a refined jewel, and, like the opal, seems to be ringed about with poetic imaginings. The ancient Greeks are said to have admired the amethyst because they deemed it a charm against intoxication. Alike in Greece, Rome, and the East it was believed that wine drunk out of an amethyst cup would not intoxicate.