Whitby jet originally was in the form of monkey puzzle trees about 180 million years ago during the Jurassic period. As the trees eventually died some of them were taken into the water of rivers and eventually ended up in the sea. The trees then would become engorged with water and sink to the bottom of the sea. Over a period of time they would be covered by thick layers of sand and mud, which compressed the trees under the sheer weight of the water above. This enormous pressure of the sea over the millions of years caused what was the monkey puzzle tree to become the material we now call jet.
Jet is found in small deposits around the world, in countries including the UK, France, Germany, Spain and the USA. Deposits vary in quality from region to region, largely dependent on the levels of trace elements such as aluminium, silicon and sulphur.
Whitby Jet can be found on the a 9 mile stretch of coast from Boulby to Robin Hoods Bay.
Whitby Jet is considered to be the best in the world due to the high levels of aluminium and this produces Jet of extremely high quality.
Whitby Jet has been used in the manufacture of jewellery and tokens since the bronze age.
Since that time a wide range of items have been made from the material from Roman medallions to Victorian mourning rings and on to the modern silver and Jet items popular today. After a long history, Whitby Jet is once again the jewellery of choice and none more so than the original Victorian pieces.
Whitby Jet was much favoured by the Victorians as a material for the manufacture of beautiful jewellery. With its light weight, deep black lustre and warm touch to the skin it was both practical and elegant.
During the reign of Queen Victoria protocol dictated that only Jet jewellery could be worn at court during periods of official mourning. This royal endorsement confirmed the status of Jet as the material of choice for mourning jewellery and fuelled the expansion of the Jet industry in the late 1800’s. Never was this more so than in the period following the death of Victoria’s husband Prince Albert from typhoid fever in December 1861.