I am very proud to announce that we now stock a specially selected range of Whitby Jet from W. Hamond, the original Whitby Jet shop and winners of the Gem-A award 2012 for most innovative use of Gemstones. This is now available in store and will be appearing on the website over the next few days.
Jet, or Lignite, is a minor gem stone derived from the decomposition of wood, over millions of years. The wood is from the family Araucariaceae which is related to the Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria Tree. Whitby jet is from the early Jurassic age, over 160 million years ago. The colour of Jet can vary from a deep black to dark brown, and sometimes the addition of iron pyrite will give a metallic lustre to the stone.
Jet has been used since prehistoric times, amulets and beads dating back 10,000 years have been found in various archeological digs through France, Switzerland and Germany. Jet was also used with shell and turquoise by the Pueblo Indians in North America. It is also found in China and Siberia. However the finest quality jet has always come the north-east coast of Yorkshire.
Whitby Jet is a very intense black which has made it popular over the centuries. Queen Victoria wore Whitby Jet as part of her mourning dress, and Victorian tourists would take the newly constructed railway to the Yorkshire coast and would take pieces of jet away as souvenirs.
As jewellery got bigger and more ornate in the late 1800s the ease of carving jet plus its lightweight characteristics made it perfect for large pieces, it was also used for models and other ornamentation. A Jet chessboard designed and carved by John Sherwood that was made for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1896 (although it was 1899 before it was completed) was described as 'the crowning triumph of the jet age - the most beautiful object of its kind ever made'. It was in the 1860's that James Storr started his very own Jet Jewellery boutique and this shop, W. Hamond has been dedicated to producing stunning hand crafted Jet jewellery ever since.
Jet has always been used to make an impact, it was also popular during the 1920's in beads for fringed dresses and the fashionable long strands that wound around the necks of vivacious Flappers as well as decorating their beaded feathered headbands, and also used alongside chrome in Bauhaus and Art Deco jewellery. They knew then as we do now that shiny black Jet is a gem that is instantly stylish and enigmatic.