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What is Whitby Jet

Jewellery & Watch News

We answer all the your questions about the magical Whitby Jet stone.

Where does Whitby Jet come from? 

Found in the quaint seaside town of Whitby in North Yorkshire, the Whitby Jet stone can be spotted along the surrounding beaches where the organic material has naturally fallen from the cliffs. During the Victorian era, the stone was extensively mined in the prehistoric cliffs that tower up to four hundred feet high above the shores. Now it’s sourcing is strictly limited to what is found on the beach, so you will often see many locals and off-duty fisherman searching for a rare glint of black in the sand.  The stone is so dark in colour that it has generated the popular expression “jet black” and its distinctive mirror-like shine is almost unmissable against the pale sand of Whitby’s picturesque beaches. 

What is Whitby Jet made of? 

Whitby Jet is actually an organic gemstone, meaning that it has formed naturally over many years. The stone is born from the  fossilized wood of the ancient Araucaria tree, also known as the monkey puzzle tree, that once decorated the whole north east coast of England. When the tree died it became drift wood that washed out to sea and eventually sank to the depths. Lying beneath the water, the wood became covered in a mixture of sediment, decaying organisms and detritus until the lack of oxygen and pressure coupled with 180 million years fossilised the wood into the hard black Jet stone.

What is the history of Whitby Jet? 

It is thought that Whitby Jet has been mined from Whitby’s cliffs as far back as 1500BC and was used by many cultures including the Romans who used it to make dagger handles, carvings, hairpins and an assortment of jewellery. But it was during the 19th century that the stone truly reached its height of popularity. Not only did Whitby itself become a popular holiday destination thanks to the introduction of new railway links, but the stone was displayed at the Great Exhibition in London during 1851 which sparked its reputation with high profile royals like the Queen of Bavaria and the Empress of France. But its most prolific advocate was Queen Victoria, who began to wear Jet jewellery to both remember and mourn her husband Albert who died in 1861. Whitby Jet then became the custom accessory to wear for those in mourning and for a while was the only jewellery considered acceptable at court. 


 How popular is Whitby Jet today? 

Towards the end of the 20th century, after an unfortunate spell of indifference to Whitby Jet, a new appreciation arose for the rare stone. Jewellery lovers and collectors began to recognise the meaningful heritage and history behind it which led to a resurgence of demand for the organic gem. Collectors in particular were searching for unique Victorian pieces like the rare Whitby Jet Jewellery Suite we have on our W Hamond website, which is possibly one of the finest suites of Victorian Whitby Jet jewellery still in existence.  But it wasn’t just traditional designs that people were desperate for, as even modern audiences craved contemporary designs set with the precious jet black stone. At C W Sellors, we are one of just a few independent jewellery retailers that make, design and craft our Whitby Jet jewellery completely from scratch within our workshops in Derbyshire. We continue to make affordable collections of Whitby Jet jewellery everyday as well as special made luxury pieces for figures like Queen Elizabeth II for her 80th birthday and red carpet ready designs for actress Donna Air who wore an impressive Whitby Jet body piece for the premier of the Amazing Spiderman.


Where can I find Whitby Jet jewellery? 

You can find all our stunning collections of Whitby Jet jewellery right here. Hand crafted within our workshops, each piece of Whitby Jet is cut, shaped and polished to perfection by our talented craftsman before being set into our exquisite sterling silver and gold designs. We have Whitby Jet themed pieces within some of our most popular collections including the Cross Heart, Wildlife Trust, Toscana and Foxtail jewellery lines. 

If you have any other questions regarding Whitby Jet, feel free to contact us on 01335 453453 or sales@cwsellors.co.uk and one of our stone specialists will be able to help in every way they can.