Whether organic jewels are mounted as a solitaire piece or mixed with stones in a lavish creation, they excel at gaining notice. A few are listed below.
Born from tree resin hardened over countless years, amber is a transparent to opaque jewel with a soft luster. Despite the name, which indicates an orange-brown hue, this gemstone comes in a range of colors, including yellow, white and even green. Some amber is mined, while others are collected on sea shores, washed onto land by tides.
Certain inclusions are prized by collectors, fetching higher prices than eye clean specimens. Insects, lizards, flowers and other organic material trapped intact within a gemstone add visual interest. These subsets of amber are valued not only by jewel enthusiasts, but by scientific communities, allowing them to study long extinct species. Amber was commemorated in the book and film “Jurassic Park,” where one jewel served as the catalyst for the adventure.
Like pearls, coral is a calcium carbonate based jewel formed from sea animals. While the former is a result of a mollusk’s defense system, the latter is made of tiny animals known as polyps. Polyps often band together into colonies, creating underwater works of art. Jewelry grade coral grow calcium exoskeletons, which are harvested and carved into beads and fanciful shapes.
Precious coral was traditionally harvested from the Mediterranean and parts of northwest Africa. The jewel’s popularity and folk status as a protective object have led to overfishing. Many types of coral are now protected species, leading many designers to create jewelry from recycled stock.
“Ivory” originally denoted an animal tooth large enough to be carved or engraved. Its ability to take fine detail made it a popular medium for decorative arts, such as sculpture, inlays and jewelry. Ivory was also used to make luxury versions of common goods like combs, boxes and mirror backings. The demand left a negative impact on many animal species.
Strides in animal welfare have prompted some artists into using antique stocks of ivory for their creations, while others sought sustainable substitutes. Vegetable ivory in the form of tagua nuts and other palm tree seeds mimic the color, texture and density of their animal counterparts. Ecologically minded connoisseurs who love the look of ivory jewelry can wear vegetable ivory with a light heart.
Sitting between a mineral and an organic substance is jet. Similar to coal and peat, it’s made of plant matter fossilized under tremendous pressure. When it forms under fresh water, the resulting jet is soft, while kind shaped in saltwater is hard. Jet is commonly known to be quite dark, usually black and sometimes dark brown. From time to time, it glitters with pyrite inclusions.
Jet was favored by Romans as a jewelry material. They viewed the gem as having protective properties and carved it into beads, rings, pins and more. Jet pieces saw a resurgence during the Victorian era, where its dark color and dull luster made it ideal for morning jewelry.
Also known as mother of pearl, nacre is the gleaming substance found on the inner shells of many mollusk species. It’s made of microscopic plates of calcium carbonate stacked one on top of the other in staggered layers. When light hits this structure, it breaks into different wavelengths which scatter in many directions, causing iridescence.
Popular forms of nacre include those from pearl oysters, pearl mollusks and abalone. In addition to its use as an inlay for furnishings, altarpieces and musical instruments, mother of pearl is used for buttons and other decorative accessories. Plain, carved or used as a backing for a translucent stone, there are many ways to make mother of pearl shine as a jewel.
Born inside many types of mollusks, pearls are formed when an irritant makes its way into the animal’s shell. To protect itself, the creature surrounds the intrusion with thin layers of its shell lining, gradually creating a pearl. Though any type of mollusk can create a pearl, only a select number of species create the iridescent type favored by connoisseurs.
For centuries, the only way to find pearls was to gather them in the wild, opening countless shells in the hopes of finding a jewel. Natural pearls were and still are quite rare, making them more expensive than diamonds. However, since the introduction of cultures pearld in 1916, this jewel has become both affordable and widely available.