Amber organic gemstones

Organic Gemstones

With the exception of pearls, which are classified as precious gems, organic gemstones are considered semi-precious gems. Organic gemstones are derived from or made by a living organism and include ivory, coral, jet, amber, shell (e.g. mother-of-pearl and tortoise), and pearls.

  • Amber is the fossilized resin of a tree
  • Coral is the skeletal remains of marine animals
  • Ivory is the teeth or tusks of mammals
  • Jet is formed from the remains of wood--similar to the process by which coal is made
  • Mother-of-pearl is derived from seashells
  • Tortoiseshell is the shell of the Hawksbill Sea Turtle, an endangered species in the United States
  • Pearls are formed inside the shells of oysters and mussels

Organic gemstone jewelry was popular with the Victorians in the 19th century. Shells were carved to make cameos, delicate seed pearls were used to make elegant parrures or sets of jewelry consisting of pendant earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. Coral was also fashioned into parrures or coral beads with red and pale pink being the most popular colors.

Amber was made into bead for necklaces. Jet, which is black in color was used to make mourning jewelry. Jewelry made from jet became popular after the death of Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert in 1861. Mourning jewelry is highly collectible and many small pieces have survived, perhaps because of its limited use. Ivory was also used in jewelry making during the Victorian period; however, it played more of a role in Art Nouveau jewelry--elk's teeth fashioned into a pair of cufflinks for example.

According to Lustre Magazine's September/October 2005 Issue, jewelry made with precious organics is a "must have" for Resort 2006.

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