Prehistoric relics made from a black stone have been excavated from ancient caves. Known as jet, this gemstone itself hails from a long time ago, having been produced from the fossilization of trees. How important was this jet stone in the history of gemstones? What makes jet a fine mourning jewelry?
In actual fact, jet is, not a stone, but fossilized wood or lignite. Jet gems were produced when trees were buried under high pressure for millions of years, giving birth to a light, relatively soft gemstone that is a waxy black or dark brown in color. Being organic in origin, a jet stone is warm to the touch, not cool. Along with amber and pearl, jet is among the few gemstones in the world that are organic in origin.
Jet is also known by the name gagate, from the Greek gagates lithos, “stone of Gages,” which is a river in present-day Turkey where the gemstone was found. Simply called gagates in Latin, the name was later shortened via the French jaiet to become jet. Found in extremely ancient artifacts from Paleolithic caves, the jet mineral was a widely used gemstone since prehistoric times up to Roman Britain. The Romans — and later the Vikings — mined jet rock in Britain extensively for its magical and healing properties. The jet gemstone enjoyed a massive resurgence of popularity in fashion when Queen Victoria of Britain wore the stone as mourning jewelry. Over the centuries, the jet gem has become the exemplification of black, hence the term jet black, meaning “as black as can be.”
Like other black stones, jet is a grounding stone. Yet the organic origin of gagate makes it different from other grounding stones like onyx and obsidian. The jet gemstone vibrates with an ancient warmth that bear the traces of life from far back in existence. For this reason, a jet crystal is believed, not only to draw out negative energy as grounding stones do, but to potently fight depression as well, what with the age-old warmth living within the jet stone, reinvigorating its wearer. Indeed, Queen Victoria could not have picked a better stone to wear as mourning jewelry, since the jet jewel, not only conveys grief, but brings faster emotional recovery and restoration too.
Like onyx, jet is a birthstone for Capricorn in Hindu astrology. Capricorn is the most ambitious sign of the zodiac. Being a black gemstone, jet grounds this ambitious personality, giving the Capricorn person better control of his power, therefore helping him to realize his ambitions. There is more to the jet mineral than its color, though. A black stone containing traces of life from the far distant past, jet is heavily associated with Saturn, the ruling planet of Capricorn, and is accordingly regarded as a chthonic stone, or one whose metaphysical powers are of the underworld. Capricorn people are known to be prone to depression, and a jet stone, as though by calling a soul from the depths of the underworld, helps bring depressed people out of melancholy.
Being a less expensive semi-precious stone, jet is suitable for fashion jewelry, and is accordingly carved into beads and strung together to make beaded necklaces and bracelets. However, the jet gemstone is rare compared to other black stones, like onyx, obsidian and tourmaline. With the limited supply of this organic gemstone, a jet stone is often set as pendant for necklaces, rings and earrings, and is particularly worn as mourning jewelry.
The most popular use of jet is possibly the same factor that has brought down its value. Most popular as mourning jewelry, a jet stone has become unfashionable probably due to this same association to mourning. As a result, the jet gemstone has become a rather affordable semi-precious stone. Still, authentic jet jewels — especially jet from Whitby, England, which was used in Roman Britain and by Queen Victoria — remain very valuable to collectors.
Do you like jet?
Jet is a black stone produced from fossilized tree, and is an age-old talisman believed to fight depression. Do you like jet as a gemstone? Do you like wearing jet in your jewelry?