Jet is the fossilized remains of driftwood, compressed into a very compact form of lignite or coal. In Britain, it is principally found in the coastal town of Whitby, North Yorkshire.

It has been used in jewellery since prehistory but became particularly popular as mourning jewellery in the second half of the 19th century. By1872, there were 200 shops in Whitby selling jet and the industry employed 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. This chain is formed of highly polished and carved beads. A watch would have hung from one end, whilst from the other end, a small jet prayer-book hangs.

However, not all jet was used for mourning. It was also a popular souvenir, bought by holidaymakers arriving at the coast on the new railways.


  • Title: Watch chain
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1870/1879
  • Location: England
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 25.5 cm, Depth: 0.9 cm
  • Provenance: Given by Mrs B. M. Dickens
  • Medium: Jet

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