Black souls are those of sentient, humanoid beings such as Imperials, Argonians, Khajiit, and Dremora, whereas white souls are those of animals and certain lesser Daedra. All black souls are of the grand level. The main benefit of a black soul gem is that it can capture grand-level souls from humanoids, whereas those souls cannot normally be captured. Black soul gems can also absorb souls that are smaller than grand. These sources tend to be plentiful and easier to kill, compared with common grand-level white soul sources, such as mammoths. Nelacar can transform the star of Daedric Prince Azura, into a black soul gem with unlimited uses. This artifact is known as "The Black Star".
After a black soul gem is used for enchanting, the soul that was inside it goes to the Soul Cairn.
Souls snared in black soul gems can be of any type, although, unlike standard soul gems, they can encapsulate the souls of humanoids. There are many methods by which souls are trapped in black soul gems, the most conventional method being the Soul Trap Conjuration spell. The perk "Soul Stealer" allows Bound weapons to soul trap targets, and an enchantment serving the same function can be added to ordinary weapons. Black soul gems can also be used to create items at the Atronach Forge.
The souls of humanoids trapped in these soul gems remain conscious. They are generally regarded as unethical, and their use is prohibited at the College of Winterhold, despite the institution's lenient stance on the practice of Necromancy. Soul Trapping humanoids is considered a crime in many of Skyrim's Holds.
Black soul gems can be found randomly in chests, on tables in caves, and also appear as random loot on necromancers, giants, hagravens, Forsworn Briarhearts, and very rarely, draugr. Additionally, magic anomalies drop black soul gems filled with grand souls. They are available for purchase from Enthir, a mage of the College of Winterhold, as well as from Falion in Morthal. Each gem is priced at about 1300 . Black soul gems can also be obtained by mining geode veins, found only in Blackreach. With Dawnguard, they can also now be made from Grand and greater soul gems by activating the Lightning Attractor in the Soul Cairn. The Lightning Attractor cannot be activated a second time. Black soul gems in Skyrim are much more common than they were in Oblivion.
Specific spawn points
- Many of the gems listed here may spawn as other Soul Gem types—usually Grand or Greater; it depends on character level, see this thread .
- In Windhelm, black soul gems can be found inside the hidden room in Hjerim after buying the arcane enchanter.
- There is a black soul gem in the Cracked Tusk Keep vault, to the right of the entrance, behind some iron bars.
- There is also one in a half-buried pot in front of an altar in Geirmund's Hall, in the room just past Geirmund's corpse.
- One can be found at the bottom of the pond at Steepfall Burrow, near the chest.
- There is one in Broken Fang Cave, in the master vampire's chamber, and another at the Shrine of Talos.
- Another one may be found atop Dead Crone Rock, on top of a platform in the tower (requires Unrelenting Force or Whirlwind Sprint).
- After completing Pieces of the Past, a black soul gem respawns every week in the Shrine of Mehrunes Dagon. It is on the lower shelf at the very back of the shrine, to the left of the main chest.
- It is also possible to get black soul gems from Gulum-Ei at the end of Scoundrel's Folly, a Thieves Guild quest. The Dragonborn is given three random soul gems as a reward, any of which could be a black soul gem.
- There may be a filled black soul gem in a chest in Serpent's Bluff Redoubt.
- There may be a filled one at the end of Shroud Hearth Depths. It is across a broken bridge, in a small alcove that requires Whirlwind Sprint to reach.
- A filled one may be found in Shroud Hearth Barrow not far from the entrance to Shroud Hearth Depths to the right of the apprentice locked door with a gold ingot stashed within.
- A chest inside a tent in the Forsworn encampment at the base of Bard's Leap Summit contains a black soul gem.
- One can be found in a chest next to a dead Bosmer, just north of Karthwasten.
- One can be found in the same chest as Noster's Helmet within Shadowgreen Cavern.
- One can be found on a bloody altar up the steps past the entrance to Deepwood Redoubt, along with hagraven feathers and a few potions.
- One may be found in Nightcaller Temple, during the quest Waking Nightmare.
- They can be purchased from Falion in Morthal.
- Warlord Gathrik, the final boss of Ironbind Barrow, always carries two empty black soul gems, regardless of level.
- One can be found on the table where Jyrik Gauldurson was sitting before the Dragonborn discovers the Eye of Magnus.
- One can be found in the chest in Brittleshin Pass.
- One can be found in the chest in Mzinchaleft Depths in the chest near fountain.
- One can be found in the chest before the elevator in Avanchnzel.
- One can be found in a locked chest in the destroyed camp outside Alftand.
- One can be found on the end table located at Pinewatch in Rigel Strong-Arm's room (depending on level).
- One can be found in the Fort Snowhawk Prison, next to the entrance doorway on a table with a dead bandit next to it.
- Many can be found in Apocrypha when the Dragonborn reads the Black Books.DB
- There are two empty black soul gems and one grand soul gem in Valerica's Study on the opposite side of the room to the door leading to Volkihar Balcony in Castle Volkihar.DG
- They can be created at the Lightning Attractor in the Soul Cairn (requires greater or grand soul gem in exchange).
- If sided with the vampires, a respawning black soul gem can be found to the left of the arcane enchanter in a master-locked display case on the second floor of the first room on the left, after entering Castle Volkihar.DG The black soul gem and the lock respawn every 35 in-game days.