About Whitby Jet

Jet is fossilised wood, from a tree similar to the monkey-puzzle, and is therefore an organic material.

It is the result of high pressure decomposition over time and the jet found at Whitby is from the Jurassic period – over 180 million years old. This is long before man walked the earth.

It is prized by jewellers because salt water compression produces harder jet. Only in a small area of the North Yorkshire Coast is this type of jet found, and it is famous all over the world.

Jet buttons, beads and other ornaments have been found in by archaeologists in Bronze Age graves and other sites and it is clear that the material was greatly valued in the distant past. More recently it enjoyed huge popularity as the jewellery of choice of the bereaved Queen Victoria, grieving for her beloved Albert.

Jet1-3This Victorian appetite for jet created a boom in Whitby. The 1871 census revealed that just over 1,006 people were employed in jet workshops out of a total of 4827 people working in the town.

Only nine of these were women. Most of this jet was mined from the cliffs rather than found on the seashore. By the early 20th century, fashions had changed and large items of ornately worked jet no longer found favour.

But some expert carvers and jewellery-makers continued to work on in the seaport, selling their creations to a small but discerning customer base. The resurgence of jet in recent years is partly due to a modern appreciation of its natural beauty and uniqueness.

It is also becoming well known again due to the popularity Whitby itself as a destination which fascinates visitors of all kinds, some of them with interests that are esoteric and spiritual.

As the home of St Hilda and the poet Caedmon, Whitby is revered throughout the Christian world as a place of holiness and pilgrimage. As the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it is famous in the annals of Gothic horror as the place where the dreaded Count first began his reign of terror.

We love the winding streets of Whitby and the little villages that hug the coast around it, but best of all, we love the seashore. That is where we find all of our jet, most of it buffeted and washed by storms so that it needs hours of polishing to revive its gloss and velvet blackness.

Long eons have a sea-change wrought
Where once great reptiles roamed and fought
From forests dark, primeval night
The waves give up their treasure bright

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