Environment

Black Gemstones: Accessible Yet Striking Gem Selection

These days, black gems lost their meaning as grief pieces but remain valuable for their versatility and great contrasting match to bright and transparent gems.

Although black is not a usual gemstone color, there are still several options from which to choose. In the past, black gemstones have often been associated with mourning jewelry. These days, they lost their meaning as grief pieces but remain valuable for their versatility and great contrasting match to bright and transparent gems.

Obsidian

Obsidian
Obsidian.

Obsidian is probably the first stone that is associated with the color black; it even entered the literature vocabulary and is used to describe something of a deep, yet striking and highly reflective black color, like “obsidian black eyes.” Obsidian is a natural glass: it is lustrous, glossy, and forms very sharp edges if cracked. Its creation is mainly associated with volcanic activity when rocks melt and cool down rapidly, not allowing distinct crystalline structures to form. An example can be island volcanoes. Because of its origin, obsidian is close to the surface and in large amounts, which made it a great material for tools, hooks, arrowheads, and mirrors since prehistoric times. 

Obsidian is not exceptionally sturdy or durable, it breaks easily and is fairly soft (ranks twice less than a diamond on Mohs scale). Obsidian looks very stylish and is suitable for fashion statement jewelry. 

Black Onyx

Black onyx
Black onyx.

Onyx is the traditional black gemstone from the agate family. It was more expensive in the past than it is now, most likely, due to the discovery of many more locations with it and the competition with more black gemstones varieties made available by globalization.

Solid black onyx has no brilliance and shines and presents and a smooth stone with a vitreous luster. Solid black onyx is quite rare, so many of the marketed pieces have been recolored artificially. Onyx can be chipped or cracked if dropped, but otherwise, its a fairly durable and sturdy stone that takes polishing well.  

Black Sapphire

black sapphire.
Black sapphire.

Sapphires are mostly associated with blue colored gemstones with a high Mohs rating of 9. Corundum also comes in a black variety. They are considered lower-grade and cheaper variety because of their opacity, low brilliance, and low reflection capacity. They are primarily mined in Australia and are easily affordable.

A more valuable subtype of black sapphires is called black star sapphire. These are black sapphires that contain tiny needle-shaped inclusions of other minerals, which gives them a type of chatoyancy known as asterism: when polished, black star sapphire cabochons display a bright six-rayed star. They are very hardy, durable stones, ideal for casual wear jewelry. 

Black Tourmaline

Black tourmaline crystal
Black tourmaline crystal.

Black tourmaline is one of the most frequent black gemstones. It is found in abundance and is very affordable. Black tourmaline is smooth to the touch and has a glassy, sometimes vitreous luster. This stone is easy to work with and has excellent wearability thanks to its fair hardness. They are tough and resist breakage, which, together with their availability in large sizes, makes them good material for fancy shaped centerpieces and unusual experimental designs.

Black Jade

Black Jade tumblestones
Black Jade tumblestones.

Jade is a notable and valuable stone associated with China. The most famous variety of jade is, of course, green, but when there are more iron oxides in the stone, it becomes very dark and is perceived as black with a secondary green hue. This variety is a cheaper one, but Jade prices, in general, are not defined purely by rarity and size; historical and artistic value are significant factors of the price. Jade is a soft stone but is not at all brittle because of its very compact composition, so it is used to create beautifully carved designs.

About the Author

Antonia is a sociologist and an anglicist by education, but a writer and a behavior enthusiast by inclination. If she's not writing, editing or reading, you can usually find her snuggling with her huge dog or being obsessed with a new true-crime podcast. She also has a (questionably) healthy appreciation for avocados and Seinfeld.

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