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Whitby Jet - Today V Past

Jewellery & Watch News

Whitby jet is a gemstone with a past. With its royal connections, jet has a legacy to be proud of! It all began in the mid 19th century when the Great Exhibition held in Hyde Park, London featured our rare gemstone, Whitby jet. It was here at the international showcase that the Queen of Bavaria and the Empress of France became aware of the deep black stone naturally found on the North Yorkshire coastline. The popularity started to grow yet it wasn’t until ten years later in 1861 that the interest in jet and the far from traditional seaside town really soared. 

When Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert died, she began to wear Whitby jet jewellery to mourn her loss. During this time she wouldn’t be seen without it and even demanded that the only jewellery that could be worn in court was Whitby jet. Her influence during the Victorian era was huge making the rare gemstone massively popular amongst her supporters. Every woman wanted a piece of Whitby jet jewellery to wear and flocked to the picturesque town in search of the black gemstone. The unique British gemstone had become super fashionable almost overnight. 

 

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In response to the rise in popularity, approximately 204 workshops opened in the town where many artisans would handcraft beautiful brooches, earrings and necklaces alongside ornaments, dishes and bowls. That’s a lot of workshops in one small place showing just how sought after the stone was after Prince Albert’s death. Inside a lot of painstaking techniques were used to create intricate carvings that symbolised love, life and remembrance. Some jet pieces were completely smooth whereas others were facetted to create different styles and showcase their skill. Beaded necklaces were also very popular and the accessory to be wearing during this era. Luckily, Whitby jet’s weightlessness made each stunning design so easy to wear. It still excites us to discover an antique piece from way over 150 years ago. 

 

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Unfortunately, due to the demand during the Victorian Era many imported jet from Spain causing many to distrust the authenticity as everyone wanted a genuine souvenir to take home with them from the idyllic seaside town. To regain people’s trust true Whitby jet was labelled and a certificate was given along with each sale. Health and safety wasn’t a priority during Victorian times with many cramped workshops covered in dust.  

As with everything that becomes fashionable, the shift always changes and something else takes its place. With its association with mourning the demand started to tail off. However, Whitby jet has become much more popular again with many visiting the town in search of the unique gemstone. There may be fewer workshops yet the buzz has returned. Honouring the traditional techniques of the past, Whitby jet is precision cut and polished to perfect to guarantee exceptional quality. Lathes and dust filled workshops are now replaced with modern equipment and a healthy working environment yet the essence of traditional craftsmanship is still very much alive. 

 

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Our talented specialists ensure that each piece of Whitby jet jewellery meets our extremely high standards whilst paying tribute to the legacy of the gemstone. Our love and interest of our local gem is embedded in to everything that we do. Sourcing antique pieces of Whitby jet allows for us to continually learn about the rich heritage with every carving and design. Our designers also create unique pieces of jewellery that appeal to our contemporary audience that have a love for history. By setting the stone alongside diamonds and in 18ct gold and platinum, our Whitby jet jewellery combines a nostalgia for the past with a modern twist. 

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