Native American Jewelry and Carving Materials – Jet

Paula,

One store owner here in Arizona calls jet a gemstone but I’m almost sure that isn’t correct – can you tell me if I am right or not?

Thanx, Jess

Hi Jess,

Good question ! Here’s my official answer.

Jet also known as Acoma Jet

Jet is an organic fossil – a solid, durable type of lignite coal that originated from wood.

Raw Jet

The term coal means the fossilized remains of ancient organic matter that ranges from bog materials to peat to wood. Jet, however, is the fossilized remains of araucaria (coniferous evergreen) wood specifically.


Therefore jet is not a stone or a mineral. It is fossilized wood.

You’d think jet is black……as in jet black……but actually it is very very dark brown but it appears black.

It is mined around the Acoma Pueblo region of New Mexico, among other places, thus the name Acoma Jet, or Jet for short.

Polished Jet

It can be highly polished. Therefore, it is very popular for carving fetishes. Here are some examples of Zuni Fetish carvings from jet.

Jet  is also used for inlaying but not usually used in large pieces for stone sets – if you see large black “stones”, they are usually black onyx.
Here are some examples of Zuni inlay pieces using jet.



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4 thoughts on “Native American Jewelry and Carving Materials – Jet

  1. Pingback: Black and Silver Bead Necklace – Help Me Identify Please « Native American Jewelry Tips

  2. Jet is most certainly a semi-precious gemstone. It is in the same category as other stones such as amber and opal. This category of stones are referred to as mineraloids. I am a jeweler based in Maine and I carve jet for my personal work.

    • Acoma Jet is fossilized wood.
      The terms gem, stone, and gemstone have almost as many definitions as people using the words.
      Whether certain materials are considered gemstones is a matter of personal interpretation.
      For more information, you can read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemstone
      Since semi-precious means any gemstone other than diamond, emerald, ruby or sapphire, then if acoma jet is considered a gemstone, then it is a semi-precious gemstone.
      A rose by any other name smells just as sweet.

  3. Pearls are in the same mineral/scientific/technical classification as jet, amber and opal yet it is considered precious, so I see what you mean by interpretation. Jet (Acoma or otherwise) is also not necessarily only composed of fossilized wood. It is carbon based which can start out as a variety of plant matter. It is also pettrified, not merely fossilized which makes it slightly more unique than plain old fossilized wood. Thanks for feeding people with knowledge! I could use some more… For example do you have any great tips on sources for rough? Cheers!

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