Wondering about black gemstones and the various types that exist in jewelry?
Perfect, you're in the right place!
In this guide we cover:
- What black gemstones are (and why they're black)
- The different types of black gemstones available
- And my unique analysis on each gem
All of that is covered and more. Let's jump in!
Back in the medieval times, black gemstones were a source of negative energy often associated with mourning or a gothic vibe. In the early 19th Century, Queen Victoria wore a crown with black jet during Prince Albert’s funeral.
Nowadays black gemstone jewelry is one of the more popular fashion statements creating an elegant, yet modern look. Unlike the past, people are now embracing black gems fusing them in white metals or gold finishes.
Since black has no rival color, it is a suitable stone for almost any outfit both for females and males. There is a long list of black gemstones and choosing may sometimes be a tricky affair. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered!
Where To Buy Black Gemstones?
With their rise in popularity, black gems are now available in most stores (offline and online) selling at affordable prices. If you live near local jewelry stores like Tiffany & Co., you might find great deals, otherwise, with the current trends, most buyers prefer online shopping.
What Are The Types Of Black Gemstones?
Black gemstones come on a variety of options. Here, we’ll look at some of the popular and trendy gemstones fit for jewelry use. Here’s a list you may have heard of:
- Black Sapphire
- Black Jet
- Black Diamond
- Black garnet
- Black Tourmaline
- Black Spinel
- Black Zircon
- Black Onyx
- Black Pearl
1. Black Sapphire
Sapphires belong to the corundum family and come in all colors- including black. The black versions may occur as translucent or transparent in clarity. These black sapphires may not be necessarily black but come in very dark hues, whether purplish, bluish, or any other shade that makes them look black.
Black sapphires are not so common, although they are considered inferior and less valuable. They have a continuous hue but some specimens have minor variations of undertones and depths. Even though they do not reflect light, well faceted specimens can mirror light.
Another popular version of sapphire includes the black star sapphires. They’ll contain inclusions of hematite and rutile. These inclusions make unique patterns known as asterism- a star-like effect. Like other sapphires, it has a hardness of 9 and proves to be extremely durable
- Shows asterism
- Very tough
- Translucent to transparent
- Lasts longer
- Suitable for all jewelry
- Not commonly found
2. Black Jet
Ever wondered where the common phrase jet-black was coined? Yes, from the historic stone Black Jet. Since the stone is strikingly black, this phrase was used to emphasize how black an object could be. Jet is an organic gemstone made of fossilized wood. It has similar properties to amber and sometimes known as Black Amber.
Black jet was a popular mourning stone in the ancient times but its fame was pulled out during the 1920’s. It’s a very soft stone with a Mohs rating of 2.5 to 4. It is inevitably not a great option for everyday jewelry and can break easily. It’s mostly lustrous with an opaque surface and absorbs light.
- Organic gemstone
- Very soft
- Absorbs most light
- $4 - $20
- Very soft, easily breaks
Black diamonds were not a popular choice back then. Furthermore, no one really wanted a diamond which did not sparkle. Recently, the stone has had a gain in popularity affecting its prices too.
Black diamonds are typically black and, like other diamonds, made of carbon. The black hue is a saturation of minor inclusions present within the stone itself. So, unlike most jewelry where color formation dates back to crystallization, what you see in black diamonds are actually inclusions (mostly graphite).
They are also quite rare and so far, only found in Brazil and Central Africa Republic. They are among the hardest varieties of diamond (10 Mohs) but some may have fractures that may loosen up the gem’s bonds.
Since diamond doesn’t sparkle, it has a lesser brilliance than its colored counterparts. It is also found only in one grade- Fancy. Black diamonds are rarely valued on clarity but based on inclusions.
- Has inclusions
- Medium brilliance
- Very hard
- One-graded gemstone (fancy)
- $2,000 - $4,000
- Very unique
- Very expensive
- Doesn't shimmer as normal diamonds do
4. Black Garnet
Garnets are often red and confused with ruby but there are a few rare black varieties of garnet specified as andradite and melanite. Black melanite is the more popular stone and commonly found in jewelry stores.
Black melanite is faceted to enhance the brilliance of the stone. It is a very hard stone and highly resistant to breaking: great for everyday jewelry. You may confuse black garnet with black tourmaline mostly due to the striking similarity in color of the stone. However, black garnets have a slightly higher luster than tourmaline.
- Medium brilliance
- Great hardness
- $30 - $80
- Very affordable
- Andradite is rare to find
5. Black Tourmaline
Black tourmaline is a more common variety in the tourmaline family. It is easily found across the world in abundant quantities. It is smooth and has a vitreous luster. With a Mohs hardness of 7 to 7.5, the stone is generally wearable in almost any type of jewelry.
Black tourmalines are mined in various shapes and sizes and can be cut into faceted shapes of cabochons. In some instances, needles of black tourmaline may invade quartz and forms what is called tourmalinated quartz.
- Vitreous luster
- Great for most jewelry
- Not very popular
Even as the common spinel is a famous substitute for ruby, there are black types, which come in distinctly opaque forms. They are common in Thailand and come in vitreous lusters. Black spinel has a hardness of 8 Mohs and can be cut into various faceted shapes like oval, cushion, pear and other common cuts.
In some instances black spinel exhibits asterism and such stones are usually cut in cabochon to bring out the start-like patterns. Black spinel is affordable and has excellent clarity levels making them a solid jewelry option.
- Generally hard
- Exhibits asterism
- Reasonably affordable
- Great for all jewelry
- Not a popular gemstone
7. Black Zircon
Zircon is a perfect substitute for diamonds and, as with diamonds too, they also come in an array of colors. Despite the stone being of great gemstone quality, it’s quite affordable.
Black zircon obtained its black hue from inclusions of iron oxide during its crystal formation. The color varies from dark brown shades to solid black.
However, the stone is quite brittle (6 to 7.5 Mohs) and when exposed to rough conditions, it can easily break or fracture. Black zircon is not your everyday black gemstone and even finding it on the market can be daunting.
On the flip side, the stone shows excellent brilliance especially when faceted into different cuts.
- Brittle gem
- Good brilliance
- Hard to find
Although obsidian has a shiny black surface, the stone is not automatically crystalline. It may be formed as a result of various materials subjected to volcanic activity. It is one of the oldest gemstones to be discovered and used during ancient times. In the medieval era, people used obsidian to make basic tools like mirrors, cutting material, or jewelry.
Obsidian is often cut en cabochon but there are faceted pieces that still look brilliant. The stone may look tough but it is relatively soft with a Mohs ranking of 5.5. It’s easily scratched if exposed to blows or rough wear. However, obsidian is a nice gemstone that adds style to one’s wardrobe fitting in almost all types of jewelry.
- Glassy luster
- Volcanic aggregate
- Relatively soft
- Unique gem
- Very cheap
- Easily fractures
Onyx is a form of agate having alternating bands of black and white. Chalcedony is used to describe the white stone, while onyx generally refers to the black.
In some rare cases the onyx may have red bands (called sard), and such stones are referred to as sardonyx.
Solid black onyx has a vitreous luster although it’s not very shiny. Finding a naturally black onyx is quite rare and most specimens on the market are often dyed to enhance its color.
Black onyx is generally durable and has a 7-Mohs hardness although not so good with rough handling. In the past this stone was quite expensive but nowadays it's considered a minor gemstone, hence very affordable.
- Vitreous luster
- Medium durability
- Banded streaks
- Very Affordable
- Most black varieties are dyed
10. Black Pearl
Black pears are one of the rarest types of pearls to come by. They require very specific conditions to be formed. Tahitian pearls are among the most valuable of the black pearls ranging from soft grey to a midnight deep ink color.
- Very rare
- Quite soft
- Organic gemstones
- Each piece is unique
- Easily breaks
Black pearls are notable for their iridescent glow, and like all organic gemstones, they are cultured from millions of years. They are soft gems (Mohs 2.5) and, if used in jewelry pieces, they’ll need to be carefully looked after.