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Jet is generally classified as a lignite coal and has a high carbon content and a layered structure. It is typically black to dark brown and can sometimes contain tiny inclusions of pyrite. Jet has been carved for ornamental purposes since prehistoric times. The term “jet black” gets its name from the color of jet. There is hard jet that forms in saltwater and soft jet that forms in freshwater.

Jet Polished
Jet Classification
Common Name Jet
Species Jet
Jet Optical Properties
Transparency Semitranslucent - Opaque
Dispersion Strength: None
Refractive Index 1.660
Optic Character NA
Polariscope Reaction Singly Refractive (SR)
Fluorescence SWUV: inert
LWUV: inert
Pleochroism None
Jet Characteristic Physical Properties
Hardness 2-4
Streak Black-Brown
Specific Gravity 1.120-1.520 Typical:1.320
Toughness Poor
Inclusions In some Jet specimens the original wood structure can be seen.
Luster Vitreous, Resinous, Waxy
Fracture Conchoidal, uneven
Cleavage None
Jet Chemistry & Crystallography
Chemical Name hydrated hydro carbon
Chemical Formula CHO-2H2O
Crystal System NA
Chemistry Classification Organic

Jet Colors

  • Black Jet Black
  • Brown Jet Brown

Alternate Names

Whitby Jet

Countries of Origin

United States of America (the); Cambodia; Portugal; Spain; Canada; Austria; Mongolia; Turkey; Luxembourg; Russian Federation (the); Poland; Italy; France; Germany; United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the)


It has been proposed that jet is formed from driftwood that has been carbonized and subjected to heat and pressure over millions of years. Bronze age the first jet artifacts have been found at archaeological sites.


Hard jet needs normal care and handling, more care needs to be taken with soft jet.

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Whitby Jet

Whitby Jet is found in the cliffs of Whitby a seaside town in the Scarborough district of North Yorkshire, England. It is known for its high luster and jet-black color. It was favored after the death of Prince Albert when it was used by Queen Victoria as morning jewelry.

Whitby Jet Jet
Whitby Jet Classification
Common Name Whitby Jet
Whitby Jet Optical Properties
Fluorescence Inert
Whitby Jet Characteristic Physical properties
Toughness Poor
Inclusions Rarely contains quartz grains, might show tree like structure under magnification
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Tim Matthews

Tim Matthews is President and Chief Executive Officer of Jewelry Television® (JTV), as well as a member of the company's Board of Directors. He oversees and leads all aspects of the company's powerful omni-digital retail platform that uniquely specializes in fine jewelry and gemstones. His passion for business and gemstones has led him to become a recognized expert in the field of gemology. He is a life member of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A) and has earned Gem-A's highest degrees, the Gemmology (FGA) and Diamond (DGA) diplomas. He is also a Graduate Gemologist (GG) of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and has also completed GIA's Graduate Diplomas in Diamonds, Colored Stones and Pearls. Under his leadership, JTV has become the leader in the sourcing and selling of color gemstones and jewelry.

This page was created on June 27, 2014.

This page was last edited on October 24, 2019.