Our lovely town is famous for its association with the precious black gemstone, known as Whitby jet. 
Beautiful and distinctive, we love seeing jet jewellery in Whitby’s shops, but then we started to wonder where it came from … 
Did you know that jet is actually fossilised wood, created from the Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria tree, for lovers of Latin)? 
Millions of years ago, Monkey Puzzle trees were commonplace around our coast. Over the millennia, the wood and debris was washed to sea and was eventually compressed into a thick sedimentary layer. 
Ever-increasing pressure caused the debris to disperse, with the more resistant bits forming into jet. 
If you are lucky enough to pick up a fragment of jet on the beach, it’s surprisingly lightweight. 
Jet can be highly polished, creating the glossy finish you see in Whitby’s retailers. 
However, this is ‘nowt new’ as it’s thought jet was used for decorative purposes back in the Bronze Age! 
So if you’re thinking, 'What did the Victorians do for us?' ... they helped make jet popular however it had been in use for centuries. 
In a way, we do have Queen Victoria to thank for the popularity of jet. Following the early death of her husband, Prince Albert, she wore jet as part of her mourning attire. 
Back in the 19th century, jet was mined and transported by pony, and the jet industry was a major employer in the area. It is thought around 200 miners worked the coastline to find the jet, and up to 1,500 jet-related workers were in Whitby by the late 1800s. 
Window-shopping for jet jewellery (or, even better, buying it!) is a Whitby tradition. 
You can search for jet along our shores, but it’s a time-consuming task. You need a keen eye and the patience of a saint. 
We prefer having a meander around Whitby’s narrow, cobbled streets and admiring the black gemstone in a mullioned shop window! 
Tagged as: Whitby Jet
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