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 black gem
All of that is covered and more. Let's jump in!
What Are Black Gemstones?
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.
After that point, black gemstones became used in mourning jewelry. This lasted the entire Victorian era.
Nowadays black gemstone jewelry is one of the more popular fashion statements creating an elegant, yet modern look. Unlike in the past, people are now embracing black gems fusing them in white metals or gold finishes. Many are choosing them as a diamond substitute.
A black gem gives off dramatic and striking vibes, perfect for a confident fashion statement. Modern society has used them to accessorize gothic and alternative wear.
Most black gemstone jewelry is made of inexpensive stones. There are only two black precious stones: black diamonds and black sapphires. All other black gemstones are semi-precious.
Since black has no rival color, it is a suitable stone for almost any outfit whether you prefer darker or lighter colored clothes.
What Metals Look Best with Black Stones?
Black gemstones can look great in any type of ring setting. However, there are some metals that may look better overall.
Black gemstones are dark and striking on their own, so you might want all the focus on your black center stone. Silver metals like white gold, platinum, or sterling silver would be best to complement them.
However, a black gemstones set in yellow gold or rose gold offers more drama with a confident fashion statement. Some may find the yellow gold color or the rosey pink gold color too much with a black stone.
Yellow gold and pink gold look better on those with darker skin tones. White metals are better for people with fairer skin tones, but they should avoid rose gold with pink undertones in their skin.
Even though these are the recommended jewelry metals for your skin tone, you should always choose what you think looks best, not what the color science says.
What Are The Types Of Black Gemstones?
There is a long list of black gemstones and choosing may sometimes be a tricky affair.
Not to worry, we’ve got you covered!
1. Black Diamond
Black diamonds were not a popular choice back then. Furthermore, no one really wanted a diamond which did not sparkle. The need for a black diamond has increased in recent times.
Natural black diamonds are black to solid black with very slight transparency. Like other diamonds, it's made of carbon. The black hue is a saturation of minor inclusions present within the black diamond itself.
Treated black diamonds are colorless diamonds that have been treated to become solid black. The slight transparency in a natural black diamond is an indicator of its origin compared to treated black diamonds.
Treated black diamonds aren't usually that expensive and can be found in major retailers. But they can't beat the luster of higher quality natural ones.
Read also: Best Place to Buy Black Diamonds
A black diamond stands up better to bumps and blows than other colored or colorless diamonds because of the graphite inclusions. It's a very tough stone compared to a colorless diamond.
Natural black diamonds are rarely valued on clarity but rather based on the strength of their their color.
Black diamonds make an excellent center stone for engagement rings or other fine jewelry with a hardness level of 10 on Mohs scale.
Black diamonds aren't as expensive as buying other colored diamonds. Treated black diamonds make up most of the local market. They run under $100 per carat. A natural black diamond can run about $800 per carat.
2. Black Pearl
Saltwater black pearls are one of the rarest types of pearls to come by. They are a unique jewelry gemstone because they come from a living organism. We call it an organic gemstone.
They're known as Tahitian pearls. These are among the most valuable of the black pearls, ranging from soft grey to a midnight deep black ink color. Their luster lights up the dark body tones of black pearls. Both light gray and the black inky color can have high luster.
A Tahitian pearl is the only natural black pearl. A freshwater black pearl and an can be dyed black, but obviously they're not as rare. An Akoya black pearl is also dyed.
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 hardness of 2.5) and need to be carefully looked after. This gemstone isn't a very tough gemstone for daily wear for rings, but can still be a classic staple in your jewelry collection.
Read also: Where to Buy Pearls Online
Black pearls aren't graded like other black gemstones because they have more factors that affect their price. A 9mm Tahitian black pearl with top luster would run about $300-600. Freshwater dyed black pearls range on the piece. Typically, you can get a strand for $200-300 in total.
3. 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 aren't technically black, but come in very dark hues. They can be purplish, bluish, or any other shade that makes them look black. You can usually see they aren't true black hues in different kinds of lighting.
Black sapphires aren't common, and they're not too expensive. They have a continuous black hue but some specimens have minor variations of undertones and depths. Even though a black sapphire doesn't reflect light, well-faceted specimens can mirror light.
Be careful where you buy a black sapphire because it can be confused with other black gemstones like a black spinel. The two have different values and different hardness ratings.
A black sapphire can contain inclusions of hematite and rutile called black star sapphires. They get their name because of the way the inclusions are arranged when the light hits a black star sapphire at different angles. This effect is called asterism and affects other stones than black star sapphires.
Black sapphires have a hardness rating of 9, making them great for everyday wear. Black star sapphires are very affordable at $30 per carat. Dark blue sapphires that look black are affordable too, since the color isn't valuable in that blue shade.
4. Black Opal
Opal is a very popular gemstone that attracts many. They are known to display different rainbow patterns referred to as its play of color. Black opals aren't only one of the rarest color varieties of opal, but they're considered the rarest black gemstones.
A black opal isn't solid black, but more of a deep blue color. Almost all material is found in Lightning Ridge, Australia.
The best stones can go for $10,000 per carat. However, you'll find many on places like Etsy that are much cheaper. Many of these are lab created, heated, or color treated. You'll need to be careful where you buy.
You can buy black opals directly from Lightning Ridge online with beautiful opals around $500 per carat. Opal are very soft stones and shouldn't be worn everyday.
5. Black Garnet
Garnets are often red and confused with ruby, but there is a black variety of garnet specified as black andradite garnet. Black Melanite is the variety species, but most just call it black garnet.
Black melanite is faceted to enhance the brilliance of the stone. The luster of a black garnet has been compared to a black fancy colored diamond. It is a very hard stone and highly resistant to breaking: making black melanite 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.
You'll probably have a hard time finding these black gemstones local, so you'll have more options for black garnet online. Black garnet is considered more rare, but it doesn't cost as much as other varieties at around $30 per carat.
6. 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 very high luster also displays pleochroism.
Black tourmaline's color comes from iron and magnesium in the crystal. It may have bluish or purplish tints. With a Mohs scale 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 found in black tourmaline gemstones may invade quartz and forms what is called tourmalinated quartz.
If you're wanting to wear black tourmaline as a daily gem, you'll want to use precaution. Tourmaline is valued for its color, so black tourmaline isn't too expensive. It usually runs about $27 per carat. However, black tourmaline is usually used in its raw crystal form for the metaphysical, not as faceted material.
7. Black Spinel
Even as the common spinel is a famous substitute for ruby, there are black types, which come in distinctly opaque forms. Black spinels are common in Thailand and come in vitreous lusters. Black spinel has a hardness of 8 on the Mohs scale and can be cut into various faceted shapes like oval, cushion, pear and other common cuts. It's a very tough gemstone and great for wearability.
Black spinel may be compared to a black sapphire because the two look very similar. Just be careful when buying black precious stones online because they may be black spinel in disguise. Comparatively, black spinel is much cheaper at under $100 per carat.
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.
8. Black Zircon
Zircon is a perfect substitute for diamonds and, as with diamonds too, they also come in an array of colors.
Despite this black stone being of great gemstone quality, black zircon jewelry is quite affordable.
Black zircon obtained its black hue from inclusions of iron oxide during its crystal formation. The color varies from dark brown gemstone shades to solid black.
However, the stone is quite brittle (6 to 7.5 Mohs scale) 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, this black zircon shows excellent brilliance especially when faceted into different cuts.
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.
Technically, obsidian isn't a black gemstone. It's black volcanic glass. It is one of the oldest black gemstones to be discovered and used during ancient times.
Black obsidian is used in bohemian and Native American black gemstone jewelry. It is also popular as a healing stone. It's considered a favorite black crystal among those into crystal healing. Obsidian is said to ward off evil spirits and absorb negative energies.
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. It may look like a tough stone, but it is relatively soft with a Mohs hardness ranking of 5.5.
It’s easily scratched if exposed to blows or rough wear. Just think about how easy natural glass gets scratched. Any glass case you've ever seen, or a glass bottle.
However, obsidian is a nice gemstone that adds style to one’s wardrobe fitting in almost all types of jewelry.
10. Black Onyx
Black onyx is a black gemstone variety of chalcedony. It is a very common and popular black stone, but onyx used to be considered rare and mysterious. You might be surprised to know that solid black onyx is hard to find. Most solid black onyx sold has been dyed to enhance its color.
Normally, black onyx is found as black and white gemstones. They are normally banded. In some rare cases the onyx may have red bands (called sard), and such stones are referred to as sardonyx.
Black onyx has a nice luster, although it’s not very shiny. Black onyx is fairly wearable and durable, falling in 7 Mohs hardness. It doesn't have any cleavage and is considered to have excellent wearability.
In the past, black onyx was quite expensive but nowadays it's considered a minor gemstone and very affordable at $3-20 per carat.
Read also: Onyx vs Obsidian
11. 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 as mourning jewelry in the ancient times but its fame was pulled out during the 1920’s.
It’s a very soft stone with a Mohs scale rating of 2.5 to 4. It's very brittle regardless of it's vacant cleavage. It is not a great option for daily wear and can break easily. It’s mostly lustrous with an opaque surface and absorbs light.
Black Jet is an affordable black gem because of its bad wearability. It doesn't have price per carat cost because it's mostly used as beads, carvings, etc.
12. Black Jade
Most people are familiar with jade as a green gemstones, but they can occur in a few different colors. Like black jet, black jade is "jet-black" (see what I did there). These two could easily be mistaken for one another.
Black jade, or any variety of jade really, isn't used as faceting material for black gemstone jewelry. Jade is a popular gemstone used in art carvings and cameos, rather than rings and earrings.
You'll be more likely to find black jade as a bangle bracelets and in chunky jewelry. However, in recent times black jade has been scarce, so its price may drive up fast for pieces. It doesn't have a price per carat. Untreated black jade carvings will go for a much higher price than dyed.
13. Black (Star) Diopside
Diopside isn't technically considered a black gemstone. They are beautiful green gemstones that also occurs in dark greenish black colors. Some diopside is so deep green, it can look completely black.
The diopside that is completely black comes from India. Most of the this color material presents asterism, the star effect. Instead of calling it black diopside, "b is its commonly known as its star variety. It may also be referred to as the "Black Star of India".
As one of the cabochon black gemstones, these black gems aren't used in fine jewelry. You may find wire wrapped pendants or cabochons in rings. You should be cautious because it's not a good gemstone for everyday wear.
14. Black Cat's Eye Scapolite
Black cat's eye scapolite is the chatoyant black form of scapolite. The stone is not a pure black, but characterized as a very dark grey or brownish black. Chatoyancy is similar to asterism, but the ray of light shown is a single line. When angled by the light, it looks like a cat's eye.
Chatoyant gems like this aren't used in jewelry often. They're rare, so most people keep this black gem as a collector's piece. If you'd like your own piece, it'll cost you around $50 per carat.
Even though you won't use this in jewelry, scapolite has a hardness level 5.5-6 and perfect cleavage, so it's not good for daily wear anyway. Scapolite is found in many places of the world, but black cat's eye is usually found in Africa.
Ilvaite is another lesser known black gemstone. Like some of the other black gemstones on the list, this stone displays pleochroism at different angles. Some ilvaite is solid black at one angle and may show dark green or dark grayish black hues.
It's not used in jewelry, but more as metaphysical crystal or a specimen collector piece. Ilvaite display specimens can be very expensive, but smaller faceted black gems aren't. However, faceted ilvaite is extremely rare. There isn't a whole lot of it on the jewelry market.
For that reason, ilvaite doesn't have a price per carat. However, 2-3 inch crystals points of ilvaite may run $30-$90 each. Specimens on matrix may cost hundreds. If you were to wear ilvaite as crystal jewelry, be aware that it's hardness is 5.5-6 and has perfect cleavage.
16. Black Cassiterite
Black cassiterite is the black variety of cassiterite, a gemstone with beautiful dispersion. Its mainly composed of tin ore. Cassiterite is valued for its pale colors for faceting. It's very rare to find this kind of material because most is black cassiterite or brown cassiterite.
Most people don't know this black gemstone exists, despite its abundance in the earth. Its hardness is 6-7. Because it's not one of the popular black gemstones, it's usually an invaluable collector's piece. However, you won't find it in any black gemstone jewelry.
17. Black Quartz
Black quartz may be known as smoky quartz. It's not always black either. Smoky quartz may be dark brown with reddish tints or dark gray. However, for it to be distinguished from smoky quartz, black quartz must have more aluminum present to darken its color.
It's a popular black stone used in crystal jewelry, not as a faceted black gemstone. Many people collect smoky quartz clusters or towers. It can be faceted for an extremely affordable price, $5 per carat. Its hardness is a 7 and doesn't have any cleavage, so it has great wearbility.
18. Black Hematite
Black hematite is another one of our black gemstones that's used for metaphysical purposes rathern in jewelry. Hematite is a very abundant black gemstone and an iron oxide crystal.
It's a common misconception that hematite is magnetic. You might run into people who seem to demonstrate this, but those don't have any natural hematite in them. Natural black hematite will have dark reddish brown streaks.
It's not regularly faceted, but can be. Its hardness is fairly tough, at a 5-6.5. Black hematite is very affordable in large crystals at under $50. Carat-wise, you could see it less than $5 per carat.
19. Black Moissanite
Moissanite has skyrocketed in popularity as a diamond substitute, but many don't know it's available in fancy colors. That includes black. Although black moissanite isn't a popular black gemstone, it's out there.
All moissanite is man made, so the color of black moissanite has been treated to display its black color. It has excellent wearability with a 9.5 on the Moh scale and has no cleavage. Despite this, they don't know how hard of a blow is needed to crack a moissanite.
Moissanite is more expensive than other black gemstone jewelry at $150 for a one carat. Cut and quality can increase it up to $500 per carat.
Read also: Where to Buy Moissanite Rings?
Where To Buy Black Gemstones?
Black gemstones have increased in demand, but not enough for your local jewelry store to keep a lot in stock. Mall jewelry stores that people normally buy from carry treated black diamonds and that's it. You might be able to obtain a natural black diamond locally, but probably way more than it's worth.
Shopping online to buy black gemstones is going to your best bet. Some of these gemstones are rare, so you won't be able to find them for sale.
If you're looking for black precious stones like black diamonds or black sapphires, I have a couple suggestions for you.
For affordable natural black diamonds, I recommend going to James Allen. For best of the best quality, I recommend Leibish & Co.
For black Tahitian pearls, I recommend Blue Nile.
For all other black gemstones, places like Etsy and Gem Rock Auctions are going to be best for faceted black stones and mineral specimens.
And as we take this into a wrap, I hope this article helps you narrow-down you list and finally get you into choosing your choice of black gemstone to add to your jewelry collection. Cheers!