Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk Sep 24, 2015 Updated Jan 22, 2019
Buying Black Gemstones for Jewelry
Black Jasper, Agate and Spinel
Shopping for black gemstones and jewelry? Black gemstones can make stunning jewelry. There are actually very few gemstones that occur in black, but there are still a handful of varieties to choose from, which may be hard to believe, since black gems are rarely ever seen in jewelry retail stores, apart from perhaps black onyx cufflinks and various other men’s accessories. The lack of black gemstone availability could be owed to the morbid association with the color black and the dearly departed. During the Victorian era, the variety of black gemstone options seemed almost endless, due to the heavily commercialization of black gems, though mostly for the production of mourning jewelry, and many of the materials were man-made.
In the present day, it would seem that black gems have long been forgotten and are no longer in production, but this is not the case. Black gemstones are still very much available, but like many other colored gemstones, especially lesser-known or collector's gemstones, you'll need to look online and source them from specialized gem dealers. When buying gemstones for your jewelry, it's important to choose the right gem, which can depend on several different factors. Since jewelry is designed to be worn, one should always consider the overall durability of a gem when choosing a stone for a particular jewelry design. For example, when it comes to jewelry prone to daily wear and tear, choosing a tough gemstone is important; while for jewelry, such as earrings or pendants, which are less prone to hard knocks, any gemstone is perfectly suitable as long as some level of care is taken when it is worn.
Here are some of the best black gemstone varieties available today for your custom-made jewelry:
Black Rutilated Colorless QuartzQuartz is not only one of the most important gemstone groups, but also offers the most variety when it comes to black gemstones for jewelry. Some quartz varieties may be all-black or partly black. Agate and onyx are the most common black quartz gemstones, and they're often used for men's fashion accessories, such as cufflinks or tie-clips. Agate and onyx are so closely related that it can be hard to distinguish the difference between the two. Onyx is actually a variety of black and white layered agate, so all onyx can be described as agate, but not the other way around. In most cases, solid black agate is usually dyed because it naturally forms with multicolored layers and wavy or parallel banded designs. Onyx can also be dyed, but is usually left untreated as the black and white layers are cut into shapes that bring out desirable patterns in its banding. Both black agate and black onyx are relatively affordable and their sleek color can make very elegant jewelry, but none that would be labeled as fine jewelry.
Black jasper is not as common as agate or onyx, since jasper is almost always known to be multicolored with blotches and patterns. However, unicolored jasper is not unheard of, and black is a color that can be found, though the color is usually not as deep as other black gemstones. Jasper is especially rare in solid colors because it tends to contain a high percentage of impurities which are what give jasper its unique colors and patterns. As a member of the quartz family, jasper is closely related to agate and onyx, but jasper is classed by itself because of its grainy crystal structure. Since black jasper, agate and onyx are opaque, they are almost always cut en cabochon, though some faceted gemstones can be found. One variety of quartz, known as rutile quartz, which is usually known for its golden needle-like inclusions, can also be found with black rutile inclusions (as well as other colors too). Many rutilated quartz gemstones are so heavily included that they can appear near-opaque, but most exhibit only small areas or clusters of black rutile inclusions. While most other gem types lose value when heavily included, rutile quartz is one of the few gems that gains value as it becomes more heavily included.
Black Garnet Back to Top
Faceted Black Tourmaline
The most common black gemstone on the market today is tourmaline. It is one of the most easily available gems and may sometimes be referred to as 'schorl'. Almost all tourmaline is black, which is why it is one of most affordable varieties of tourmaline. Black tourmaline also has the advantage of enormous size availability, so for anyone requiring very large black gemstones, tourmaline is the best option. Cut gemstones can be easily found in weights close to 100 carats. Like all other color varieties of tourmaline, black tourmaline shares the same excellent gemstone qualities which make it perfectly suitable for all types of jewelry. Black tourmaline is also one of the only black gems that are commonly given a traditional facet cut, rather than simple cabochons or rose-cuts with flat bottoms and faceted tops.
Black Spinel Back to Top
Black Jet Back to Top
Black Snowflake Obsidian Volcanic Glass
Obsidian is a naturally occurring glass formed by lava extruded from volcanoes. As the material cools, it hardens without crystal growth, which makes it quite unique and not an actual mineral. Obsidian has been used for tools and jewelry since prehistoric times, and because it has such fascinating properties, it is a unique material that has a variety of applications, including surgical blades, as well as cut and polished gemstones (typically cabochons). One variety of obsidian forms with small, white, radially clustered crystals of cristobalite, which result in a very unique black glass with blotchy snowflake patterns. In some cases, obsidian may also settle with various other impurities which can result in a highly attractive iridescence, often with a gold or rainbow-like sheen. Obsidian's natural, dark glossy color makes it ideal for fashionable jewelry, for both the young and the old, as well as for ladies or men. Obsidian can be easily shaped into gothic, vintage, Celtic or punk-inspired designs, or modern, edgy pieces.
Black Pearls Back to Top
Diopside is mostly known for its chromium-rich green gemstone variety, referred to in the trade as chrome diopside. But, diopside can also be found in black or sometimes very dark greenish-black. The black gemstone is highly sought after by collectors as it is one of the few gemstones known to exhibit the rare optical phenomenon of chatoyancy, usually in the form of asterism (the star effect), and occasionally cat's eyes as well. These star diopsides are cut en cabochon and usually feature 4 rays, rather than 6, which is one of the easiest ways to distinguish it from similar-looking black star sapphire. Star diopside has a hardness of just 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale, rendering it best for earrings, pendants or occasional-wear cabochon rings that are worn with care. Most star diopside is sourced from India, earning itself the nickname 'the Black Star of India', though it can be found in various other localities.
Black Opal Cabochon
Black Opal Back to Top
Black Scapolite Back to Top
Black Jade Back to Top
Black Golden Star Sapphire from ThailandSapphire is one of the most valuable of precious gems, and black star sapphire is a respected member of the corundum family. Red corundum is traded as ruby, and all other color varieties are referred to as sapphire. Although sapphire is mostly known for its bright and vivid blue color, there is quite a demand for fancy color sapphire too. Black sapphire is a rarity, and since it is opaque, it is cut en cabochon. Small needle-like rutile inclusions are known to result in attractive chatoyancy in the form of a 6-rayed asterism. The effect is best seen when viewed under a strong direct light source. Black star sapphire from Thailand is known for its golden colored rays, and is especially unique since most other sources produce only white-rayed star sapphire. The best specimens are those with sharp stars, and those that were properly oriented to maximize chatoyancy. Like all sapphire, star sapphire is extremely durable and it is one of the hardest materials known to man, second only to diamond. Most star sapphires are used for men's cabochon rings, but they are perfectly suitable for any jewelry design from earrings to pendants, and beyond.
Black Diamond Back to Top
Most black diamonds sell for prices close to that of white diamond, as they are heavily marketed as 'fancy' diamonds, but still there is very little consumer demand for fine quality black diamond. In many cases, the color may appear to be very dark gray and near-black, rather than jet-black. Black diamond is quite rare and therefore, much of the material on the market today has been treated, usually with irradiation, to enhance the color. Almost all of the black diamond available is sourced from Brazil, but it can also be found in Central Africa. Black diamond is known to be very porous and pitted, and therefore, it can be difficult for gem-cutters. If you're able to find a well-cut black diamond, rest assured you are wearing one of the most precious gems on Earth.
If dark colors are to your taste, you may consider black gems, which are suitable for both men's and ladies' jewelry styles. Black gems for jewelry are not completely dark, but have a glittering luster and a sheen that makes them special and sets them apart, in a class all of their own.
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