Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Coal or Jet? The Black Rocks from the Ocean...what are they???

Many people over the last few months have been given a beach combers treat...finding large black somewhat shiny rocks on the beach and or in the water.  Most think because of its look and weight that it is COAL , however an interesting thing happens to Coal when it is left for thousands of years it progresses its way to a density of hardness known as Jet and becomes shiny, and valuable as a gemstone.

  Jet was the only true black stone available during the time Queen Victoria went into mourning for her mother and husband who both passed in 1861.  Protocol was that widows wore black for a certain period , and all who felt her pain at that time chose to mourn with her...hence the Victorian Period.

You can tell coal from jet, one by the look Jet is a shiny black where as Coal is more of a matte finish. more like a seaglass smooth.  The large piece of Coal I have would have been Jet in another 1000 years or so as it is already showing some spots of shinieness.  Please see the pictures..

This is how to tell coal from Jet....
 You can take a small piece  of your find and light a match and put it to it, Coal  will ignite whereas Jet  will extinguish the flame of the match.

Coal takes thousands of years to form as it is a biochemical formation or sedimentary rock.  Organic Matter accumulates along the edges of seas, rivers and lakes and the process of flooding and non-flooding the plant matter is covered by water , soil and sand.  The water usually saline in nature prevents the decay of the matter and it will start the process of metamorphosis from plants to coal and eventually jet, and if the jet is left alone it will eventually under the right circumstances turn to a diamond the hardest known "rock" on earth.

Black jet usually has a shine, while coal is usually more of a solid black.
The degree of processing results in differing qualities of coal:

The following information came from this site.... it is a breakdown of the different stages of Plant Matter to coal to Jet.


PEAT - is not actually a rock yet, but no longer just organic matter, either. Peat is a major source of energy for many non-industrialized people of the world. The not-quite-consolidated plant matter is a precursor of true coals which is what it would have become had the material been left buried for a few million years more.

LIGNITE (or brown coal) -  is the least mature of the true coals and the most impure. It provides the least yield of energy of the true coals and burns the dirtiest. It is often crumbly, relatively moist and powdery.

SUB-BITUMINOUS - is still poorly indurated and brownish in color, but more like bituminous than lignite.

BITUMINOUS - is the coal most people are used to. The black, soft, slick rock is the most common coal used around the world.

ANTHRACITE - is usually considered to be the highest grade of coal and is actually considered to be metamorphic. Compared to other coals it is much harder, has a glassy luster, and is denser and blacker with few impurities. It is largely used for heating domestically as it burns with little smoke.

GRAPHITE - is essentially pure carbon and would actually be a higher grade of coal than anthracite, but is difficult to ignite and is rarely used for this purpose. Graphite forms from intense metamorphism and even igneous processing.

JET - is the gem variety of coal. Generally derived from anthracite, jet is where the phrase "jet black" comes from. Because it lacks a crystalline structure, jet is sometimes treated asa mineraloid.


For More cool information about Coal ...check out this link:


Coal (almost Jet another 1000 years) and Jet 


Almost Jet

A Close up of the almost jet...so basically it is Coal....

(′jet ¦kōl) (geology) A hard, lustrous, pure black variety of lignite, occurring in isolated masses in bituminous shale; thought to be derived from waterlogged driftwood. Also known as black amber.

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/jet-coal#ixzz2KjYkQJze

Well I hope you find this informative as much as I enjoyed finding out more than I already knew.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fulgurite ...Beach Comber's Lottery Ticket

Photo from Minresco.com


Well I have wanted to learn more about this subject for a long time..and so I am sharing what I have learned which is a little more than what I knew already...but for those of you who find this "Secret Beach combing treasure " as exciting as I do you can find some great information above at the links.

First read the great article in Our State Magazine about Mr. Green , I actually met him I believe when he came to my bead store Ocean Beads looking for fulgurite  and if I had any to sell...but alas we did not ...it is that rare to find unless you know what to look for ...and I am happy to say I was blessed to find a awesome large specimen  a few weeks ago and when you look at the picture you will see why.

Now I have to tell you one of the picture is from Minresco.com and I will mark it ....because to find it like I have stated is difficult and it is a rarer find than Sea Glass.  But I do have pictures of my recent finds.

Fulgurite is the result of Lightening striking the sand ...during those incredible , dangerous yet beautiful storms we get and leaving behind a deposit , some look like jagged shards of glass, and yet others which is what is more commonly found here....looks like a tube of concrete spit....and inside if you choose to break them open you will find magnificient formation.  Mine I chose not break and you will see why when you look at the picture.  

Mine when the lightening struck the sand trapped about a 1 inch rock and some shell pieces inside a "opening" as part of its branch.   I have seen many pieces people have had but none like this one.
I also included a picture of some very small lightening spit...these to the average person are just rocks ,but alas they are fulgurite, you can tell by the color, texture and most clearly the shape and  smoothness.

It takes as the Our State Article states  "50,000 degrees fahrenhite" ...to hit the sand in an almost atomic force to create a fulgurite ...there are places to look and its not on the flat part of the beaches as seen in the movie "Sweet Home Alabama"  although the gentleman who collects and sells his pieces helps in the creation by planting "Lightening Rods" in the sand prior to a big storm and then goes back and digs up any that he might have been gifted with.    No you have to look around the dunes and the tops where the lightening is most likely to strike , and as you will read in the article , Corolla is the second best place to find them...although I have found mine all over , just a little more work and makes the find that much more worthy of appreciation and excitement.

So next time you go to the beach and looking around, you can find beautiful shells, occasionally sea glass , but if you find a fulgurite you have hit the beach comber's lottery....

My treasure , Fulgurite found in Hatteras , I call this one the Peace Pipe as that is what it looks like ...it about 6 1/2 inches long...and pretty weighty , but it is a beautiful example of a Beach Comber's Million Dollar Lottery ticket.
Study the color and texture so next time you go to the beach you might just find one too

Look closely and you can see the little shell and rock pieces trapped around the rock and the light blue triangle you see is actaully a hole that light is coming through.

lightening spit

The smallest piece is about the size of a quarter and the other piece about  inch and a half, click on the picture and in the enlarged version you can see marks in the larger piece of shells or rocks that were probably shattered during the process

What I love about the small one is the little indentation  that dark spot is actually a place where a rock or something was in the way when it was formed....They kind of look like miniature Sculptures.