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Black obsidian is one of the most famous variations of the obsidian rock. It’s a fascinating gemstone to look at and to use in jewelry, especially when it’s well-cut. The captivating deep black color suits a lot of different styles and designs, and always makes for a beautiful piece.
So, what should you look for when buying black obsidian jewelry? What can you expect to get and what should you be prepared to avoid? Let’s find out.
What is Black Obsidian?
Black obsidian, like other types of obsidian, is a naturally produced volcanic glass formation that results from the cooling off of felsic lava. Such cooling typically happens rapidly after a volcano becomes inactive.
The most common place to look for obsidian rocks is in the margins of the rhyolitic lava flows that are otherwise known as “obsidian flows”. The reason is so that these flows are rich with silica, and obsidian is typically made of 35% – 80% silica. That, together with the other specifics of the chemical content allows a high viscosity, which is what allows the lava to form into glass.
Because obsidian is only found in locations that have experienced volcanic eruptions, the most common mining sources for this gemstone are, in alphabetical order, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Chile, Georgia, Greece, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Scotland, Turkey, and the United States.
As a volcanic glass, obsidian resembles a mineral but it’s not a true mineral because its composition is too complex and lacks the typical mineral crystalline structure.
As a type of volcanic glass, obsidian is hard, amorphous, and brittle. It doesn’t have the typical cleavage of other gemstones, plus its conchoidal fracture and acute edges when broken allow it to form very sharp and smooth edges.
The dark color of obsidian is largely due to the presence of iron and magnesium. When the formation of the volcanic glass is free from inclusions, the end result is clear black obsidian. Pure black obsidian is quite rare because, more often than not, the rocks will include some inclusions which will give it a brownish, yellowish, or reddish coloring. Obsidian can be recognized by its glassy structure and single refraction.
The obsidian stone bears its name after the Roman Obsius who was the first European to discover this volcanic glass in Ethiopia.
Black Obsidian Clarity
Black obsidian should be, by definition, clear from any inclusions. It’s generally completely opaque with a nice, crystal shine to it. As volcanic glass, it has a vitreous and glassy luster.
Black obsidian with a high enough clarity should have enough reflective properties to be usable for the famous obsidian mirrors. You can find many such mirrors online – while these are obviously not as functional as standard glass mirrors, beautiful obsidian mirrors like this scrying mirror with antiqued brass stand are truly gorgeous.
Black Obsidian Cut
According to most jewelers, black obsidian is a fun gemstone to cut and carve. Because of its hard and brittle nature, it’s easy to cut with a diamond saw as well as to carve with a Dremel diamond tip drill.
No matter how they choose to do it, however, black obsidian gemstones are traditionally shaped into rounds or ovals, cabochon cuts, and fancy cuts and can be faceted, tumbled, or carved. These cuts tend to best accent the beauty of the black obsidian.
In addition to that, however, an obsidian stone can be cut in countless other manners – in various pillar shapes, pointed pendulums, decorative arrowheads, and moon shapes. As obsidian stones are easy to cut and frequently used in ornamentation, the possibilities are only limited by the cutter’s imagination.
Black Obsidian Carat Sizes
Obsidian gemstones can vary greatly in their carat weight. Unlike many other precious gemstones, beautiful and practical obsidian stones can be found in very large sizes up to hundreds of carats.
Obsidian is moderately heavy for its size with a 1.00-carat oval obsidian stone typically having dimensions of around 2” x 1.5” x 0.5”.
A black obsidian gemstone of such dimensions can cost hundreds of dollars, depending on its clarity, shape, and cut. Pieces as large as 8-10 inches can be cut and sold.
How to Choose a Black Obsidian Gemstone
Choosing black obsidian is mostly a matter of personal preferences – what size, carat weight, cut, and shape you’re looking for, as well as how polished and refractive you want it to be.
There are some variations of black obsidian, depending on whether there is some slight coloration or not, as well as on how glassy it looks.
The Apache Tear, for example, is a type of black obsidian that’s formed by being thrown in the air during its creation which results in a much less glassy and significantly rougher appearance.
Snowflake obsidian is also a popular variety of black obsidian. Here, white flecks and spots similar in appearance to snowflakes dot the surface of the obsidian. This occurs when quartz crystals form on the surface of the obsidian rock, with the crystal formation removing the glassy appearance of the rock where it forms.
Black Obsidian Jewelry
Black obsidian, with its deep and glossy appearance, has been a favorite among jewelry designers for its beauty and metaphysical properties. Here are some of the types of jewelry it’s commonly used in:
Black obsidian can be carved into large pendant pieces or even shaped into beads. The dark, glassy stone provides a captivating contrast when paired with metals like silver or gold. The reflective quality of the stone adds a touch of elegance to necklaces
Be it in the form of beads or larger chunks, black obsidian bracelets are quite popular. The grounding nature of the stone makes it a favorite for those who believe in its energy-balancing properties. Such bracelets are often combined with other stones to augment their benefits.
A black obsidian ring stands out for its uniqueness. The deep black color contrasts beautifully with sterling silver, gold, or even copper settings. These rings can range from being dainty with a small obsidian stone to bold statement pieces that feature a large obsidian gem.
Black obsidian earrings, whether as studs or drop earrings, make for a mesmerizing accessory. The stone’s luster catches the light beautifully, adding a touch of mystery and allure to one’s appearance. Paired with bright or shiny metals, they can look especially dramatic.
Though less common, black obsidian can be crafted into intricate brooches. The stone can be carved into various shapes or even combined with other colored gemstones to create a multifaceted design. Given its glassy finish, it gives brooches a distinct and elegant appeal.
In each of these jewelry forms, black obsidian is not only cherished for its aesthetic beauty but also its supposed metaphysical properties, making it a favorite for both fashion-forward individuals and those drawn to the stone’s energetic potential.
Other Uses of Black Obsidian
Black obsidian is a glossy rock that comes from lava that’s cooled down. Long ago, before we used metals like iron and bronze, people made use of obsidian’s sharpness to create tools and weapons. The Aztec macana, a weapon with sharp obsidian pieces, is a well-known example from history.
Today, because of how sharp it can be, some surgeons use obsidian blades for operations as they’re less harmful to human tissue.
Apart from its practical uses, obsidian is also prized for decorative purposes. It’s been shaped into statues and used to add beauty to items like mirrors, vases, cups, frames, and even some tools.
While metals have largely taken over many of obsidian’s practical uses, the stone remains popular, especially in jewelry and crafts. Its rich, black glow has made it a favorite in both ancient and modern artistic designs.
Cleaning and Caring for Black Obsidian Jewelry
Aside from polishing obsidian, there aren’t many standard ways to enhance it. It can be mistaken for other gemstones, however, since onyx and jet can both look like black obsidian when polished well. A professional should always be able to tell the difference between these, especially with a microscope, but a regular customer could get confused.
Just like obsidian, the jet is not a crystal or a mineral and it too lacks the typical crystalline structure. Jet, however, is actually a type of coal and falls into the category of organic gemstones. It’s formed from pieces of wood that were buried in sediment. As such, it’s different to the touch and is much lighter than obsidian. It’s also softer and less durable (2.5 to 4 Mohs). However, when mounted onto a piece of jewelry, and when polished well enough, it can be mistaken for black obsidian.
Onyx, on the other hand, is much denser and heavier than black obsidian. It’s a mineral with a crystalline structure and can have a slightly duller finish. However, when polished well it can look quite glassy and be easily mistaken for black obsidian. Onyx is generally more valuable than black obsidian.
Black Obsidian Meaning and Symbolism
For some, black obsidian also has a lot of mysterious vibes and meanings attached to it, ranging from protection against shadow traits to psychic cleansings.
Known as the “psychic vacuum cleaner,” black obsidian is believed to be able to draw negative emotions away from the user and suck them in. It’s supposed to be a great “bodyguard” to your soul and prevent many emotional wreckages. Additionally, black obsidian is also said to be able to protect the user from various shadow traits such as fear, anger, addiction, anxiety, and truth-telling.
This video highlights some of the metaphysical uses and meanings of black obsidian.
Where to Buy Black Obsidian
Black obsidian is not a mainstream gemstone, and it might be difficult to find many options at your local store. Taking your search online will open up many options and competitive prices that are available.
When buying online, ensure that you are buying from a top-rated vendor with a proven track record. We recommend starting your search on Etsy and Amazon as these platforms have endless options to suit various budgets and styles.
Etsy has a huge assortment of vendors that offer a wide variety of black obsidian jewelry. Their obsidian jewelry ranges from a few dollars to pieces that cost hundreds of dollars and come in a variety of styles. Browse Etsy here.
As it’s one of the biggest online retailers worldwide, it’s not surprising that you can find all kinds of black obsidian jewelry and artifacts on Amazon. There’s something for everyone here. Search Amazon here.
Of course, since every vendor on Etsy and Amazon has their own policies and rules you might need to do a bit more digging and research, but that’s ultimately worth it in the end when you manage to find the perfect black obsidian jewelry. Use the site’s extensive rating and review sections to gauge the quality of each product.
Formed from cooled lava, the glossy allure of black obsidian has been cherished both for practical tools and aesthetic masterpieces. From ancient weaponry to modern jewelry, obsidian’s journey is a testament to its versatility and enduring charm. Whether you’re drawn to its metaphysical properties or its sheer beauty, this volcanic glass remains a captivating choice for artisans and admirers alike.