Whitby Jet Heritage Centre

 

 

 

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The Whitby Jet Heritage Centre is located at the end of Church Street in Whitby and is run by Alec MacKenzie and Hal Redvers-Jones.  In addition to producing fine hand crafted jet jewellery they are also proud to host the last remaining example of an authentic Whitby Jet Heritage Centreshop.
Whitby Jet is known the world over for its beautiful soft texture, dense black colour and very high polish.

Whitby Jet is the name given to the black resinous material found within the jet rock, a black laminated shale which forms part of the Upper Lias rocks of the North Yorkshire coast.  These rocks date from the Lower Jurassic Period, making them some 180 Million Years old.  If examined under a scanning electron microscope, Whitby Jet can be seen to be a fossilised wood, which has been compressed by the layer of sediment above it.

The history of Jet traces the development of prehistoric man from as early as the Stone Age and has continued to be more or less significant up to the present day.

Whitby and the surrounding coastline are subjected to the effects of the severe North Easterly gales, which are such a feature of our winter weather.  The town nestles in a natural geological fault were the river Esk joins the sea and strong onshore winds pushing a high tide often produced mountainous seas, which relentlessly pounded the cliffs revealing quantities of seam Jet or depositing pieces of sea washed jet along the beaches.

This process of natural erosion was doubtless the primary source of Jet for the Bronze age craftsmen and the Roman and Viking workers: it is ironic that this has come full circle as this is the only way Jet is found today. Because of the geological make up of the vast part of the North Yorkshire moors there is probably a great deal of Jet, deep below these undulating hills.  However, for the most part it is beyond economical reach and we must all wait for the seas and the tides to give up its harvest.

During the reign of Queen Victoria protocol dictated that only Jet jewellery could be worn at court during periods of official mourning.  This royal endorsement confirmed the status of Whitby Jet as the material of choice for mourning jewellery and fuelled the expansion of the Jet industry in the late 1800's.

Visit the Victorian Jet Works website.

 

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