jet cuff
jet cuff

Jet Value, Price, and Jewelry Information


Historically a popular black gem, jet has declined in popularity in modern times. Although jet jewelry has been long associated with mourning, this organic gem can be made into large, eye-catching beads, carvings, and even faceted pieces.

1 Minute Read

Historically a popular black gem, jet has declined in popularity in modern times. Although jet jewelry has been long associated with mourning, this organic gem can be made into large, eye-catching beads, carvings, and even faceted pieces.

jet cuff
Gold-plated, wide-hammered cuff with jet accent. Photo by April M. Licensed under CC By-ND 2.0.
Jet, Whitby, England. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Comments

The use of jet jewelry dates back to Neolithic times in Ancient Britain. The Ancient Romans later adopted and popularized this gem material not only for ornamental use but for its purported magical properties.

  • main-image
  • main-image2

    Jet pendant with undeciphered magical script on one side and an animal image on the other (2.3 x 4.3 cm). Excavated in Nishapur, Iran, 9th-10th centuries CE. Rogers Fund, 1940. Public domain. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Public Domain.

    During the later Victorian Era, jet jewelry became a popular choice for mourning wear, after the style of Queen Victoria herself.

    jet mourning brooch
    Victorian carved jet mourning brooch. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Florida Estate Sales, Inc.

    Jet is a variety of lignite coal. It forms from fossilized wood. Since it has an organic origin, it's not a mineral. Nevertheless, it's considered a gem, like amber and pearl. Although jet resembles anthracite coal, it's less brittle

    Jet takes a very good polish. Faceting can add some sparkle to the somber tones of jet jewelry. (Gemstones often have a flat bottom).

    faceted jets - Whitby, England
    Faceted jets: Whitby, England (~ 3 cts each). Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

    Identifying Characteristics

    Not surprisingly, jet burns like coal. A hot point test will release an oily odor. (Plastic imitations will release an acrid smell). Keep in mind this destructive test should only be used as a last resort for gem identification. Choose an inconspicuous spot to test any finished gem or jewelry piece.

    Simulants

    In addition to plastic, black glass can simulate jet gems. However, true jet is warmer to the touch than glass. "French Jet" was a popular glass imitation during jet's 19th century heyday. Natural gemstones that may be substituted or confused with jet include obsidian, black tourmaline, and chalcedony.

    jet jewelry - French jet imitation
    D&E Juliana Marquise French Jet and clear rhinestone butterfly brooch. Photo by GlitzUK. Licensed under CC By-ND 2.0.

    Sources

    Whitby, England yields the finest jet in seams. Spain also produces a harder but more brittle variety. Most commercial material comes from these locations.

    rough jets - Whitby, England
    "Whitby Jet, straight from the beach," photo by S0MEBODY 3LSE. Licensed under CC by 2.0.

    Other notable sources include the following:

    • United States: Colorado; New Mexico; Henry Mountains, Utah;.
    • Aude, France; Germany; India; Poland; Russia; Turkey.
    jet pieces - Turkey
    Jets, Oltu District, Erzurum Province, Turkey, largest specimen 65 x 30 x 35 mm. Photo by Erik Vercammen. Licensed under CC By 3.0.

    Stone Sizes

    Due to jet's relatively low density, gem cutters can fashion carvings, cabochons, and objects either decorative or utilitarian in almost any size desired.

    Care

    Jet is brittle and has a relatively low hardness. Thus, jet jewelry such as rings or other pieces for frequent wear should have protective settings. Store jet separately from other harder materials to prevent contact scratches. Avoid mechanical cleaning systems such as ultrasonic or steam. Use a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water for cleaning. Consult our gemstone jewelry cleaning guide for more recommendations.

    ancient jet pendant
    Jet oval pendant with man and woman, circa 43-410 CE, Yorkshire Museum, York, England. Photo by York Museums Trust Staff. Licensed under CC By-SA 4.0.

    Joel E. Arem, Ph.D., FGA

    Dr. Joel E. Arem has more than 60 years of experience in the world of gems and minerals. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Mineralogy from Harvard University, he has published numerous books that are still among the most widely used references and guidebooks on crystals, gems and minerals in the world.

    Co-founder and President of numerous organizations, Dr. Arem has enjoyed a lifelong career in mineralogy and gemology. He has been a Smithsonian scientist and Curator, a consultant to many well-known companies and institutions, and a prolific author and speaker. Although his main activities have been as a gem cutter and dealer, his focus has always been education. joelarem.com


    International Gem Society

    Never Stop Learning

    When you join the IGS community, you get trusted diamond & gemstone information when you need it.

    Become a Member

    Get Gemology Insights

    Get started with the International Gem Society’s free guide to gemstone identification. Join our weekly newsletter & get a free copy of the Gem ID Checklist!