What is Whitby Jet?
Unlike most gemstones, Whitby Jet is actually fossilised wood, similar to our present day Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria Tree which has been compressed over millions of years.
The colour of Whitby Jet is unique; its blackness is so intense that the expression ‘as black as jet' has been a commonly used phrase for hundreds of years. It is smooth and very lightweight; a characteristic that enables even the most lavish designs to be worn in comfort, and it can take on an extremely high polish to the extent that it could even be used as a mirror.
Where is it found?
Jet has been found in many countries world-wide, including China, Siberia and the USA, to name but a few. It has also been found in other European countries including Germany and Spain. But the finest quality Jet has always come from England, around the north-east coast of Yorkshire.
A gemstone famed by Royalty
With new rail links to Whitby, the town became a very popular seaside holiday destination for early Victorians for whom a souvenir piece of Jet was a must. As the century progressed, fashions changed and clothing became heavier and more voluminous – particularly with the crinolines of the time – and these fuller designs required larger more eye-catching jewellery to match. Whitby Jet's lightweight characteristics made it the perfect choice for large accessories – even the largest pieces could be worn in comfort.
In 1851, Whitby Jet was exhibited at the Great Exhibition, London and soon became coveted by a number of high profile royal persons including the Queen of Bavaria and the Empress of France. But Whitby Jet's most prolific patron was to become Queen Victoria.
When her beloved Albert died in 1861, Victoria took to wearing Jet jewellery in remembrance of him – and it soon became the etiquette to accessorise the period's elegant mourning fashion with jewellery made from the gemstone. So much so, that the only jewellery allowed to be worn in court during the period was Whitby Jet.
We sell Whitby Jet