Jet is the fossilised remains of driftwood. In Britain, the main source is Whitby, in Yorkshire. It became particularly popular in mourning jewellery in the mid 19th century. The first industrial jet workshops in Whitby, using lathes to carve the jet, were set up in 1808. By 1872, the industry employed up to 1500 men, women and children.

The custom of wearing mourning dress was encouraged by Queen Victoria’s prolonged mourning after the death of her husband Albert in 1861. Formal mourning required black crepe or bombazine clothes along with ‘a few trinkets to accentuate the general sombreness of the costume’. Jet jewellery could be highly fashionable and followed the styles of the day. As jet is light, substantial pieces of jewellery could be worn without discomfort. Its hard, dense nature made it easy to carve and it could be left matt or polished to a high shine.


  • Title: Necklace
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1870/1879
  • Location: England
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 11 cm, Length: 39.5 cm, Depth: 2.1 cm
  • Provenance: Given by Mrs C. Ball
  • Medium: Carved jet

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