A lot of people have jet-black hair, or a dog whose coat shines like polished jet in the sunlight. But what does the phrase jet-black actually mean?
Jet is a type of minor gemstone, also known as lignite, or black amber. It has a luxurious deep black colour, although it can also be found in a dark brown variety.
Jet is made from wood that has been subjected to pressure and heat for millions of years, and some can be over 100 million years old.
Today jet is not very well known, which is why the phrase “jet-black” is not understood literally by a lot of people. However, this gemstone was far more popular in Victorian times, and even formed part of Queen Victoria’s mourning dress. Throughout history, jet has traditionally been used to make rosaries for monks.
So next time you hear the phrase “jet-black” you’ll know it has nothing to do with jet planes or jet skis! Incidentally, the word “jet” when referring to planes or jet skis comes from the French word “jeter” for “to throw” or “to thrust”, which refered to describing the method of propulsion (jet propulsion/ jet engines) these methods of transportation use.