If you've ever seen some big, beautiful Jet beads, you are likely as fascinated by this gemstone as I am. It is not considered a true mineral, but a 'mineraloid' since it has an organic origin.
Jet is an ancient substance that began forming and fossilizing during the Jurassic period over 144 million years ago. Jet was formed from ancient trees that died and fell. Jet is fossilized wood, like coal, only much harder.
The stone was formed of decaying wood from millions of years ago, at extreme pressures. The English noun "jet" comes from the French word for the same material, 'jaiet'. Jet is either black or dark brown, but may contain brassy or metallic pyrite. The stone has been used in Britain since the Neolithic period; the earliest known object is a 10,000 BC model of a botfly larva, from Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. Use of Jet continued in Britain through the Bronze Age, where it was used for necklace beads. During the Iron Age of this region, Jet went out of fashion; it only reemerged as a very popular item in the Victorian era.
Jet was used as a material for jewelry in Roman Britain from the third century onward. It was used in rings, hair pins, beads, bracelets, bangles, necklaces and pendants, many of which are now shown in the Yorkshire Museum. It was also used as a magical material -- often incorporated into amulets and pendants because of the belief that it had the ability to deflect the gaze of the evil eye. Pliny the Elder suggested that "the kindling of jet drives off snakes and relieves suffocation of the uterus. Its fumes detect attempts to simluate a disabling illness or a state of virginity." (hmmm! That last one must have been of great value!)
During the reign of Queen Victoria, the Queen wore jet as part of her mourning dress (mourning the death of Prince Albert). Jet was associated with mourning jewelry because of its 'somber' color and modest appearance; it was also fashioned into rosaries for monks. During the Roaring Twenties in the U.S., long necklaces of jet beads were often seen on the young flappers, stretching from the neckline to the waistline. It was strung using heavy cotton thread; small knots were made on either side of each bead to keep them spaced evenly, as with fine pearl necklaces.
Jet has also been known as black amber, as it may induce an electric charge like that of amber when rubbed. Today many believe Jet can dispel fear and can be used to protect the wearer against illness and violence. I don't know -- but I'd like to think so!
Shown here are some gorgeous Jet creations from our Etsy colleagues -- from top to bottom --
Picasso Marble Focal Bead Necklace with Jet and New Jade Beads from DVHDesignsLapidary;
From Rabbask Designs, a handmade silver bead and carved Jet bead necklace; and
From Bizouz, a statement necklace with gold flecked blown Murano Glass bead with polished jet coin beads and gold clasp with peridot green stone.
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Until Next Time,