What is Jet jewellery and what does Azabache mean?
Necklaces, pendants and rings made from Azabache (a Spanish form of Jet and the magical stone of the Camino de Santiago), are believed to offer protection and good fortune
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Gifts of crosses and concha shells from Spain, made of silver and gold that feature Jet (Azabache in Spanish), make ideal gifts for someone who is starting a new phase in their life, because Jet jewellery has traditionally offered protection and good fortune. Why?
“Jet purifies and protects” So goes the saying about this mystical and truly wonderful ‘gemstone’ that originates from the Jurassic period on earth, some 180-65 million years ago, in the forests of the northern hemisphere – particularly in northern Europe.
Also known as Azabache (in Spanish), Jet jewellry is said to neutralise negative energy and protect people from fear, indecision and maledictions.
Jet / Azabache was formed millions of years ago as the result of high pressure under the earth’s surface and the subsequent fossilisation of the wood of the Araucariaceae (Monkey Puzzle tree). The resulting mineral Jet / Azabache is steeped in the history of the formation of the earth: It is found in two forms, hard Jet and soft Jet. Hard Jet is the result of the carbon compression and salt water; whereas so-called soft Jet is the result of the carbon compression and fresh water.
Surprisingly, it is not commonly found. The world’s biggest natural resources are around Whitby, in northeast England (and, indeed, Whitby Jet is famous), and in a part of Northern Spain called Asturias . . equally famous and well-known and respected throughout the Iberian peninsular and Europe as of exceptional quality. The Jets found at Whitby and Asturias, are of early Jurassic age, approximately 180 million years ago. But supplies are dwindling and the last few years have seen the price of this natural “gem” rise as supplies falter. Jet / Azabache can also be found in the United States, Russia, China, Turkey and Poland (as well as limited supplies in France, Germany and Portugal) but the best quality is undoubtedly from England and northern Spain.
The fact that Jet jewellery which is made from the gemstone Jet / Azabache is believed to purify and protect the person wearing it (a belief that dates back thousands of years), has made it a popular piece of jewellery for people seeking a new start in life or a new beginning – for example, after a divorce or relational break-up, or after a loss of some kind. When combined in pieces of jewellery like pendants and necklaces with other elements (such as silver or coral, for example), Jet / Azabache can be truly inspiring and make for a stunning piece of jewelry. We have seen it gifted to people embarking on a new career or starting a new job, in order to wish them good luck and success in their ‘new’ life.
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Sometimes, Jet / Azabache is combined with Coral in jewellery, which is believed to make the wearer feel tranquil and calm – especially, so the saying goes, amongst women: And so, it is often given as a present for Mothers Day, and for Birthday celebrations amongst ladies / girls / women. Coral is also said to have protection qualities and to help restore harmony in times of emotional conflict and to work against depression.
Azabache can also be united with Amber in jewellery pieces – both elements having an ‘earthy’ base, although Amber itself is far more recent – being comprised of the fossilised resin of trees from Neolithic times (a mere 35 million years ago). In comparison, Azabache / Jet originates from ancient forests formed some 200 million years ago that subsequently fossilised into the unique deep-black ‘stone’ we see today. It has a warm feel and, if you rub it against cloth, it can become magnetic.
Some say that, apart from offering protection to the wearer, Jet / Azabache is good for attracting wealth and good fortune. The Chinese (a race well-versed in the world of superstition and belief) sometimes place pieces of Azabache / Jet in their tills and cash boxes at places of work to attract money.
Jet varies in hardness (Mohs hardness 2.5 to 4) depending on where it originates. The hard Jet / Azabache of northern Spain is durable but difficult to carve, whereas the soft Jet of Whitby, England, although easier to carve, is more susceptible to scratching and it is difficult to create any detail on a piece of jewellery without breaking it. Indeed, it takes great skill to make pieces of Azabache jewellery – a craft handed down over the centuries in northern Spain. There are in fact, very few remaining ‘Azabacheros’ (carvers of Azabache). Anthracite (hard coal) and Ebonite (hardened rubber) are superficially similar to fine jet, and have been used to imitate it – but they are NOT the same and have low value – a fact easily understood when you hold comparing pieces in your hand. Azabache is something special – and you can feel it.
Jewellery made from Azabache / Jet is considered very special in Spain – especially Asturian black jet. Handmade items of Azabache jewelry are cosseted and prized.
In Spain, for millions of pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St James), Azabache is considered “la piedra mágica del Camino (de Santiago)” . . the “magical stone of the road” and a cross (especially a St James cross – or Cruz de Santiago) or scallop shell de Vieira, hone from Azabache / Jet is a prized piece of jewellery to wear along the Walk of St James (El Camino de Santiago de Compostela).