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Jet Stone: Formation, History, Uses, & Fun Facts

Jet Stone: Formation, History, Uses, & Fun Facts

Jet is actually a form of coal. It is an organic rock that formed when organic matter was subjected to huge forces of compression. It can be cut and carved without splitting, and polished to a bright luster. The phrase "black as jet" refers to its deep, dark, hue and jewelry or other objects fashioned from this stone are both elegant and beautiful.

How is Jet Stone Formed?

Black Jet

Unlike coal, Jet does not occur in seams or strips. Instead it is formed when a large piece of organic matter, such as a tree limb, is washed into a body of water, becomes waterlogged, and sinks to the bottom. It is then covered, over time, in organic sediment and silt. It is then subjected to pressure as layers of matter build up on top of it and degrades in isolation. This produces individual deposits of the stone which are similar to coal, but are far more influenced by their surrounding, organic-rich shale. Jet absorbs the oils from the shale and forms into rock. Jet varies greatly in size and some specimens are large enough to see the evidence of their organic origins, imprinted in the stone, with the naked eye.

Human Uses of Jet Stone across the Ages

Whitby, England

Whitby is a small fishing village in the Northeastern coast of England. It is world famous for two reasons. One is through its connection with Count Dracula, the vampire creation of Bram Stoker, and the other is its importance as the primary source of Jet for centuries. Until fairly recently it was possible to pick up pieces of Jet from the beaches around Whitby, and people quickly found that these little stones could easily be fashioned into beads and other objects and polished into a sparklingly bright luster, making them very attractive as decoration and adornments.

Larger, flatter pieces of Jet can be burnished to form mirrors, and there is some evidence that the Ancient Egyptians did just that with this stone from across the world.

In France, one of the oldest Jet objects was uncovered in a Neolithic burial site in the form of a necklace of alternating Jet and Chalk beads. 

All around the area of North and East Yorkshire, England, are Bronze Age burial mounds and Jet features heavily in grave goods uncovered during digs at these sites.

During the Roman occupation of Britain, Jet was collected from the coastline around Whitby and taken to York, a Roman city of great importance and commerce, and made into artefacts and jewelry which were sold both locally and to European merchants.

In 1861 Jet became extremely popular in England when Queen Victoria began wearing it as "mourning jewelry" after the death of her beloved Albert.

Metaphysical Beliefs of Jet Stone

Jet is a dramatic looking stone, and it is easy to see why pieces of Jet were marketed as being protective and lucky, especially when made into amulets and talismans. Jet is special to many people because of its origins in organic, living matter and it is said to confer many benefits on the wearer. It is believed to draw off negative energies and influences and to protect the wearer against illness and violence.

Tradition has it that people who are attracted to this stone are "old souls" who have experienced many incarnations here on Earth.

Tejas Beads has a large collection of stone beads including Jet Stone beads for handmade jewelry making. Browse the gemstone beads collection to see if anything catches your eye!

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