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Whitby Jet, what you should know on a visit to Whitby Yorkshire

Whitby Jet was made famous in Victorian times, after Queen Victoria wore it as mourning jewellery, after the death of her beloved Prince Albert. Many visitors to the town of Whitby, hope to bring home an item of Whitby Jet jewellery, as a souveniour.

Probably the most popular souvenior that visitors to Whitby Yorkshire, take home with them is an item of Whitby Jet Jewellery. But what is Whitby Jet, and where does it come from ?

During the Jurassic Period,  of approximately 180 million years ago, tropical waters covered a large area of the North Yorkshire Coast and the North Yorkshire Moors.  The river deltas brought fallen monkey-puzzle trees (araucaria araucana) down from inland where they were deposited on the sea floor. Over a period of time they were crushed by mud, sand and other debris with the result that after millions of years they were compressed and fossilised. 

Shifting land formations have revealed seams of the fossilised trees now known as Whitby Jet along the shore near Whitby and the cliffs along the coast from Staithes to Robin Hood’s Bay. This resulted in many jet mines employing the local population. With the introduction of  lathes in the 1800s, the jet industry escalated and by 1873 there were 200 workshops employing 1500 men. 

In its raw state, the jet is rather dull  and can be both brown and black in colour.  As it has its origins in wood, it is quite light and easily scratched, but when highly polished it can achieve a beautiful sheen and be warm to the touch.

Whitby Jet became very fashionable after the death of Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert in 1861.  It was considered at the Royal Court to be both fashionable and appropriate to wear Whitby Jet Jewellery  in times of mourning.

In the Pannett Park Museum, Whitby UK, there is a collection of  Whitby Jet Jewellery and Whitby Jet carvings on display. Some of the finest jet work on display, are two chess boards. They were designed and carved by John Sherwood, and took four years to complete. There is even a jet model of  Whitby Abbey. Other artifacts include jewellery, mainly brooches and pendants, and bible covers.

In present day times there are numerous outlets, particularly on the East Side which specialise in merchandising and making jet jewellery.  It is very popular with tourists as a souvenir of their visit and even more popular with the Goths who are frequent visitors on Whitby Goth Weekends

Many a happy hour can be spent on the beach looking for small pieces of   Whitby Jet  but remember if the piece is black and shiny it is more likely to be coal!  Any likely pieces that are scratched on a hard surface and leave a brown mark are more often than not,  jet.  The lighter the colourFeature Articles, the better the  quality.

Happy Hunting!

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This article is written by Suzanne Kirkhope, who was brought up in Whitby Yorkshire.

To find out more about Whitby Jet, visit Whitby Jet

To find out more about Whitby and the surrounding area, visit Whitby Yorkshire

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