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Coal as jewelry


#1

I just received a surprising email which suggested that coal in
general may be better jewelry than I suspected.

I was informed that it does not rub off all that easily and that a
coating, eg urethane, may protect the surface. It can also be tumbled
to be very strong as some pieces are found in river stones.

Given that I am going to say it supports my vote for coal (fossil
fuel) as the “official fossil” of BC. How many other stones can
provide fuel for all of society generations into the future as well
as jewelry?

Does anyone on Orchid have experience with coal as jewelry? My guess
too is that it is easier to facet than most stones and easier to
round and drill for beads.


#2
I just received a surprising email which suggested that coal in
general may be better jewelry than I suspected. 

Jet is fossil coal and was used for Victorian mourning jewelry.
There are some examples you can view if you Google Victorian Mourning
Jewelry.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#3
I was informed that it does not rub off all that easily and that a
coating, eg urethane, may protect the surface. It can also be
tumbled to be very strong as some pieces are found in river stones. 

Tumbling won’t make it strong. It would select for more solid pieces,
but those were already as solid as they were going to be. Tumbling
just would be more likely to damage weaker pieces. Besides, proper
tumbling methods can handle even the most fragile of stones. Opal,
for example, if you do it right, can be tumble polished… As for
coating, see below…

Given that I am going to say it supports my vote for coal (fossil
fuel) as the "official fossil" of BC. How many other stones can
provide fuel for all of society generations into the future as
well as jewelry? 

I still prefer Ammolites. Much rarer and prettier. But BC certainly
does have a bunch of the black stuff. So does the U.S. But coal does
also have some competition as a fossil fuel. Your oil shales and oil
sand deposts are, from what I hear, pretty vast too.

But in the end, we as a planet are going to have to wean ourselves
off of fossil fuels well before “generations into the future” It is
used now and for a while longer simply because we don’t yet have an
alternative in place. But sooner will be better than later in no
longer using coal. It is, after all, the dirtiest of the hydrocarbon
fuels, and so-called “clean coal” (a misnomer dreamed up by
advertising agencies, rather than decent science) doesn’t yet
actually exist in practice, and will be costly to implement when
people figure out how to make it work, if ever. Coal was key to
enabling the whole industrial revolution, and remains the dominant
source of energy in the world today. For this, it’s already earned
it’s place in human history, and doesn’t need titles to make that
obvious. And given that it is something that really now needs to be
phased out in the interest of not totally trashing our planet any
more, I’d suggest that celebrating the stuff with “official” titles
might also be sending messages that frankly, the world doesn’t
really need. The Chinese are busy building coal fired power plants at
an alarming rate. Don’t encourage them with awards and titles for
coal, please.

Does anyone on Orchid have experience with coal as jewelry? My
guess too is that it is easier to facet than most stones and easier
to round and drill for beads. 

A bit fragile, sometimes uneven, sometimes an odor.

But rather than run of the mill coal, instead use the form of
premium coal that has long been used as a gemstone.

It’s called Jet. This is, if I recall right, a hard anthracite form
of coal that formed not from the usual compost heap of organic
boglike matter that formed most coal, but rather, from pieces of
driftwood that became coal the same as any other plant matter would
do. It’s origin as driftwood means that while drifting around still
as wood, many of the organic compounds leached out, leaving mostly
cellulose and lignin. The result is a much purer and cleaner
starting material, which when then converted to coal, is more
uniform, a tad harder, nicer to work, and odor free… It’s even more
resistant to “rubbing off”, and needs no coating whatsoever for good
jewelry use.

You’re correct that it’s easy to work. But due to it’s softness,
it’s not the most durable stuff around. Still, better than ordinary
coal types. Jet has a long history in jewelry use. Especially popular
in victorian times, but also found used in native american indian
jewelry too.

Peter Rowe


#4
Does anyone on Orchid have experience with coal as jewelry? 

No, but my father in lay has a very impressive (though not to my
taste) carving of a rearing unicorn created from coal by the mother
in law of one of his other children. It is deep, glossy black and
looks like hematite or maybe onyx, I don’t remember exactly just now.

On the other hand, it sits on his mantel, where it suffers no wear
at all.

Noel


#5

Coal? Do you mean the hard variety called “Jet.”

Tony Konrath


#6
Does anyone on Orchid have experience with coal as jewelry? 

I’ve done work with Jet which is actually coal. It is soft and only
takes a matt finish without stabilizing. It’s popular with the
metaphysical people and wiccans. It’s called the Witches Stone by
wiccans.

Rick Copeland
rockymountainwonders.com


#7

Jet is p particularly hard form of coal and has traditionally been
used in jewellery associated with mourning. It can be polished or
carved. It is still soft and fragile so it can’t be readily used in
bracelets or rings but rather in pendants and broaches. I haven’t
encountered any modern jet jewellery but there are a lot of antique
examples.

All the best
Jenny


#8
I've done work with Jet which is actually coal. It is soft and
only takes a matt finish without stabilizing 

I disagree.

You can get a brilliant finish on jet with ordinary polishing
papers, tripoli and rouge.


#9

Lignite, a hard variety of coal has been used for hundreds of years
for jewelry and other ornamental items.

Jerry in Kodiak


#10
Jet which is actually coal. It is soft and only takes a matt finish
without stabilizing. 

Jet, like any other gemstone, comes in different quality. The best
Jet comes from Whitby deposits. Here is a good write up about Jet:

http://www.whitbyjet.co.uk/about-us/

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#11

I haven’t used any nor even encountered any in repair work. Still
probably a good idea to remove stone before re-tipping :slight_smile:

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#12

Coal, lignite and jet have been used in jewelry for years. The most
famous usage is in Victorian era mourning jewelry and flapper
necklace strands, though according to wikipedia jewelry artifacts
going back 17000 years have been found.


#13

Jet has been used for years, Native Americans has used it for inlay
and carvings.

It comes from New Mexico.

Lloyd.


#14

I made a pendant a couple of years ago using Withby Jet - Withby is a
village in Yorkshire, England, where the best Jet is to be found. I
cannot exactly explain what Withby Jet is, but it is not coal. It
actually comes close to soft wood to work with; it’s light but you
can drill in it, you can slice it and you can use a file on it
without a problem. It can be bezel set. It does not rub off as coal
does. As long as it is not polished, it looks brownish black and
unattractive. I remember asking myself what I was doing when I made
this pendant because it looked ugly. However, it takes a very high
polish and it becomes very beautiful (it takes a lot of work to get
it polished). Maybe the American jet is different, I do not know, but
Withby jet is absolutely not coal.

Regards, Leach


#15

I have a long string of Jet Heshi from Hopi which I acquired years
ago while in Tucson. The “beads” are very small - probably no more
than 3 mm. Beautiful, with a nice, but not a bright polish. These
have been made on a wire in order to get each the same size, I was
told. I also bought a nice chunk of Jet while in Tucson 2 years ago,
but have not had a chance to use it in Inlay form yet.

Rose Marie Christison


#16

Here in what used to be the South Yorkshire Coalfield in the UK,
there are a lot of ‘coal’ sculptures for sale - particularly at the
coal mining museums… They are very detailed models of steam
locos, animals jewellery etc. etc. and are all made by casting a
mixture of coal dust with a binder of epoxy or acrylic. Because of
the binder, they are quite durable as decorative items and, as most
of their substance is coal dust, the description of 'coal sculptures’
is not a misnomer. Here is a link to some of these sculptures
http://tinyurl.com/36wzjmk . The only form of coal which seems to
have been used for jewellery is Jet http://tinyurl.com/3y6kusx which
is a fossilised wood only partly converted to coal - as such, it
does not have the brittleness of normal coal and nor does it produce
black marks on hands and clothes… Good quality pieces can be
polished to a high lustre but it is soft and easily scratched. It was
thought to only exist on the North East coast of the UK but it has
also been found in Russia and in the Baltic.

Ian
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK


#17

I must agree with Tony about a polish on jet. That is in my opinion
the line drawn between fine material and the lower grades of
lignite. From there on, you get coal for the stove. Fine jet will
cut well with care and finesse and take a high polish.

TomDart.


#18

Hi, any metal polish will leave a good finish on jet. Same goes for
amber. Remember to wash thoroughly afterwards therwise you will get
a slight colouring from the polish, ie: reddish tinge with rouge. If
you want to try out jet carving drop me a line and I can send you a
small sample to play with. Better than coal, it is less brittle.

Nick Royall


#19
Maybe the American jet is different, I do not know, but Withby jet
is absolutely not coal. 

In my previous post on the subject I erred in saying that jet is
lignite. It is not. It is a variety of coal however, derived from
anthracite. A little research on google as well as Webster’s “Gems,
their sources, Descriptions and Identification” confirms jet’s
organic origin. Whitby jet is the result of fossilization of a
certain kind of driftwood, according to one reference.

Jerry in Kodiak


#20

Here’s a memory from 50 years ago when i found myself with some
hours to kill in a small Pennsylvania town. (Can’t recall the name of
the place) On the main street was a storefront which had a sign
identifying itself as the “Coal Museum.”

Inside the Museum - which looked like it had been a general store
long ago a very dark place with wonderful oiled wooden floors - the
walls were lined and the floor space occupied with display cases -
filled to bursting with all sorts of objects made of coal. I can’t
recall very many of the objects in detail. There were a number of
relatively large models ( say 2 - 3 feet tall) of buildings like
cathedrals. national capitols, and other famous edifices. There was a
great amount of fine detail in these models; finials, crochets,
window tracery, miniature sculptures in niches etc etc. The overall
effect was rococo in the extreme. Also there were smaller objects,
decorative or utilitarian, all made out of coal. Mirror and picture
frames, lamp bases, folding fans, portrait silhouettes, pie crimpers
etc etc. Most of the work was quite ornate, hardly a surface free of
carved decoration in every style imaginable, flowery, geometric,
classical, etc. Also there were models of things like steam
locomotives, autos, ships, and relief carvings of bucolic scenes.

There was little else to do with my hours - I was waiting for some
repair work to be done - but the time is so long past i can’t tell
you much more about what i saw - I tried my level best to derive
some enjoyment or inspiration out of the experience. There was
practically nothing which appealed to me on an esthetic level. Most
of the design fell into the category we might call kitsch; overly
sentimental and even freakish. It would be too easy to ridicule the
whole demented, primitive, uneducated atmosphere except that it was
an interesting example of people doing what they could with limited
resources in an out-of-the-way backwater. That underlying, innate
human desire to “create” something, anything, out of whatever is at
hand shone through. But that is purely my intellectual response born
out of my felt obligation not to disrespect the people who created
this mass of objects which, despite their skills and efforts - came
across as depressing in the extreme - all that blackness!

As to whether coal would make good jewelry I don’t know - but I was
surprised at the delicate nature of much of the work I saw - so the
stuff must have more strength and durability to it than I would have
supposed. I suppose you’d have to choose your material carefully.

Marty
PS Be careful soldering near the stuff.