Black gemstones are a unique, eye-catching option for jewellery that is sleek, elegant and sophisticated. Unlike in the past, when these stones were commonly associated with mourning jewellery or a Goth appearance, black gemstones today are a bold and confident fashion statement.
Beautifully created black gemstone jewellery is stylish and modern. Often paired with white metals for a modern touch or yellow or rose gold for a vintage, classic look, black gemstones are a gender-neutral choice that suit both males and females equally. With a wide array of black gemstones available to choose from, finding the right black gemstone for you can be difficult.
- Black Diamond
Black diamonds were once compared to ‘sealing wax’ and considered worthless for jewellery. However, today they are highly sought after and are frequently seen on runways and in high-end fashion designs.
Black diamonds are made of carbon but receive their colour from the high number of miniscule impurities (commonly graphite) present in the stone. The black colour that we see is in fact the colour of the impurities and not of the stone itself. Natural black diamonds are very rare and only found in a few regions in the world. They are among the toughest of diamond varieties and are very durable, with a Mohs rating of 10. However, some may contain tiny fractures that can compromise the integrity of the stone.
Black diamonds don’t sparkle like their colourless counterparts, but they do reflect light in their own way, with a subdued brilliance. Due to their extreme rarity, black diamonds command very high prices. As a result, treated or synthetic versions are much more affordable and common on the market. Low quality colourless diamonds are irradiated or intensely heated to turn them black. These are more affordable but not as valuable.
Black diamonds have only one grade – Fancy. Choose a stone with perfect saturation and even colour distribution. Black diamonds are not graded on clarity, as the inclusions are what give the stone its character.
- Black Sapphire
Black Sapphires are known for being blue but they come in beautiful black versions also. Black Sapphires are almost opaque in appearance. They are mainly mined in Australia and are considered inferior, low-grade gemstones. This makes a black sapphire very affordable. Black sapphires are very rare. They contain a uniform colour but may have slight variations of hues and depths within it. While black sapphires are not brilliant, and don’t tend to reflect light, they can mirror light if well-faceted.
Black star sapphires are a variety that is highly sought after and can command high prices. These are black sapphires that contain tiny thread-like inclusions, typically of the minerals rutile or hematite. When cut en cabochon and viewed under direct light, these inclusions create a star-like effect, known as asterism. This chatoyancy exhibits an intersecting 6-rayed star.
Like other sapphire varieties, black sapphires and black star sapphires are made of corundum and have a Mohs rating of 9. They are extremely durable stones and ideal for every day wear.
- Black Onyx
Onyx is the traditional black gemstone and has been used since ancient times in jewellery and as a healing stone. Solid black onyx is smooth and has a vitreous lustre, but is not a shiny stone. When cut en cabochon, the stones lustre is maximized. Solid black onyx is rare in nature, and most black onyx found on the market is dyed to achieve its colour and produce even saturation.
Black onyx is a relatively durable gemstone, at 7 on the Mohs scale. It has very good wear ability and is fairly tough. However, rough handling can cause onyx to chip or crack. Although onyx used to be highly valuable in the past, today it is inexpensive and considered a minor gemstone.
- Black Pearl
Black pearls are very rare in nature and require very specific conditions to be formed. As a result, these are among the most expensive types of pearls. Black pearls can be found in varying degrees of black, from solid to light grey. They are famous for their iridescent glow that gives the stone an added lustre.
Most black pearls are cultured, meaning that they have been farmed. These include Black Akoya, Tahitian and Black Freshwater varieties. Like all organic gemstones, black pearls are very soft, ranking at a mere 2.5 on the Mohs scale. As a result, they are easily scratched and abraded. Black pearls are not ideal as an everyday stone and need to be looked after as a delicate gemstone.
Obsidian is a natural glass that forms when lava cools and hardens rapidly, minimizing the formation of crystal structures. As a result, obsidian, also known as Volcanic Glass, is smooth and has a very high lustre. It has been used since prehistoric times with numerous applications, to make basic tools, mirrors and jewellery.
Obsidian is often cut en cabochon to maximize its glassy lustre, but it may also be faceted to give it more depth and character. Although it seems a tough stone, obsidian ranks at 5.5 on the Mohs scale and is fairly soft. It is easily scratched and is prone to breakage if exposed to rough wear or blows. However, with appropriate care, obsidian jewellery can last a long time.
Obsidian is a very stylish gemstone and is used to create glamorous pieces. Whether in delicate, small pieces or large statement items, obsidian suits all sorts of jewellery.
- Black Spinel
Black spinel is a lesser known, rare gemstone. While spinel comes in a range of colours, black remains one of its rarest varieties. Black spinel has a very high lustre and is highly reflective. When faceted into popular gemstone cuts such as cushion, pear, marquise, square and oval, this gemstone tends to exhibit very good brilliance. Some black spinel can display chatoyancy, depending on the inclusions present in the stone. In general, black spinel has very good clarity levels.
Black spinel is an affordable gemstone and is of fine quality. It has a very good hardness ranking, at 8 on the Mohs scale, making it durable enough for daily wear in all sorts of jewellery.
- Black Zircon
Zircon is a highly brilliant naturally occurring gemstone that is used as a diamond substitute. Zircon shouldn’t be confused with the cheaper, synthetic stones known as cubic zirconia. Black zircon is made of zircon silicate and receives its black hues from iron oxide inclusions. The colour can range from dark brown to solid black.
Black zircon ranks at 6 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale and is also a very brittle stone, meaning that it is prone to breakage. However, it is very reflective and when faceted, can display high brilliance. However, it can be very difficult to find black zircon jewellery on the market as it is very rare and not a mainstream gemstone.
- Black Tourmaline
Black tourmaline is among the most common black gemstones available today. Although tourmaline comes in a range of colours, black tourmaline is one of the most common varieties. It is found in abundant quantities and is a very affordable gemstone.
Black tourmaline has a glassy lustre and is smooth to the touch. It ranks at 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale and has excellent wear ability. Black tourmaline gemstones are tough and resistant to breakage, making them excellent for all types of jewellery. Black tourmalines come in all shapes and sizes, which make them ideal for large statement pieces. They are cut into a variety of shapes, from cabochons to beautifully faceted pieces.
- Black Jet
Black jet is another organic gemstone that is a variety of bituminous coal, made of fossilized wood. It is sometimes known as Black Amber due to its similarities to amber – both are warm to the touch, highly flammable and contain electrostatic properties.
Black jet used to be very popular in the past, especially during the Victorian Era, when it was popularly used for mourning jewellery. It also enjoyed popularity during the 1920s but then fell out of favour. Jet is relatively soft with a Mohs hardness rating of 2.5 to 4. It is not suitable for daily wear and is easily damaged. Black jet is solid in colour and seems to absorb all light, without reflecting any. It is smooth and lustrous and, when faceted, achieves more depth and character.
10. Black Garnet
Black Garnet is a highly popular gemstone, commonly known for being red like a ruby. Black garnet is not a common gemstone and is quite rare. There are a couple of black garnet varieties – black andradite and black melanite. From the two, black melanite is more commonly found in the jewellery world.
Black melanite is similar to black tourmaline in its colour but often has a higher lustre than tourmaline. It is commonly faceted to bring out the brilliance of the stone. Black melanite has excellent wear ability and is a very tough stone, with no cleavage. This makes it highly resistant to breaking and very good for all types of jewellery.
11. Black Jade
Black Jade has a long and illustrious history in the world, especially in China and is highly sought after. The term jade is synonymous with the colour green. When there are high levels of iron in the jade, the colour of the stone becomes black with secondary hints of green. Like black garnet, jade also comes in two distinct varieties – jadeite and nephrite. Of the two, jadeite is considered more valuable and of higher quality, while nephrite is more commonly found and is less expensive.
Because of jade’s soft nature, with a Mohs ranking of about 6, it is easy to carve into beautiful designs. Having said that jade is a very tough gemstone due to its compact composition and is very durable. Jade can be faceted, although cabochons and carvings are more common choices for the gemstone.
There are many black gemstones in the jewellery world. Here are some other black gemstones that did not make our top 11 list:
Black Quartz comes in a range of black to grey hues, often with various inclusions.
Black Diopside is a very rare gemstone that is known to exhibit distinct chatoyancy. It often has greenish tints and is mainly a collector’s gemstone.
Black Scapolite is a little-known gemstone. It is quite durable and good for use in jewellery, but is quite uncommon. It generally comes in black to brownish varieties with purplish tints.
Black Opal is technically not black, but is so called due to the dark body tones it exhibits. This dark tone allows the famous opal flashes-of-colour to stand out in beautiful contrast. Black opals are very expensive and extremely beautiful.
Although black is not a typical gemstone colour, there are many stones to choose from. It will be difficult to find most of the above-mentioned gemstones in brick-and-mortar stores. However, taking your search online will open up many options to you.
To help you pick the right stone for you, take into consideration why you are buying the stone. This will help you to focus on the type of stone you need: Is durability your concern? Do you have a budget? Do you want a popular stone? Is brilliance important? Answering these questions will help you to narrow down your options and zero in on your ideal black gemstone.