When Ted Turner bought Jane Fonda an opal engagement ring at Tiffany’s in Beverly Hills, gemologists raised their eyebrows. ”Between you and me, an opal is a terrible stone for an engagement ring,” says one professional at the American Gem Trade Association. The problem: Opals have a reputation for bringing bad luck. According to opal expert Paul Dowling, the superstition may have started in Roman times, when the opal-fixated queen of Pannonia (now Hungary) called for the head of anyone found mining the gems. In the 19th century, Sir Walter Scott enhanced the opal’s mystery in Anne of Geirstein by having the heroine’s opal turn gray when she died.
An opal is an ”unusual” engagement ring, says Tiffany’s Peter Schneirla, except when it is a birthstone. Fonda’s oval black opal is set in 18-carat yellow gold between two round diamonds. She will get the ring for her birthday, Dec. 21, though the gem for December babies is zircon or turquoise.