Whitby Jet - an ancient Yorkshire treasure
PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 February 2014
Something precious from the coast arrives in the city with a new boutique style jewellery store specialising in dramatic Whitby Jet
Whitby Jet you might think would be the gemstone of choice for many a Goth, but it is a classic piece of jewellery favoured by those who really don’t like fuss. It is an organic gemstone from the fossilised remains of the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) and found in the cliffs close to Whitby on the Yorkshire coast. It is intensely black in colour, and despite its heavy appearance, is light in weight and warm to the touch.
The stone has been used to make small pieces of jewellery and ornaments for thousands of years but only became talked about in the 19th century when Queen Victoria adopted it as her favourite gemstone and wore large extravagant sets of Whitby Jet jewellery.
Today, one of Whitby’s original jet specialists W Hamond still hand-cuts the stone, often to be set into expensive jewellery and worn by the rich and famous.
‘But unlike the intricate carvings of the Victorian era, Whitby Jet today is usually cut into highly polished domed stones, called cabochons,’ said Rebecca Tucker, manager of a brand new W Hamond luxury boutique store in the Victoria Quarter, Leeds. ‘This way the natural beauty of the gem can clearly be seen together with its famous mirror-like shine.’
Rebecca gives lectures and presentations on the history of Whitby Jet discussing how the industry began and how it has evolved over the years by showcasing different ranges and styles of manufacture. She re-established W Hamond’s first workshop since the late 19th century in Whitby. Her role has now evolved from crafting beautiful Whitby Jet jewellery to managing the company’s new Leeds store.
‘W Hamond are always creating new and interesting collections,’ said Rebecca, including the unusual Whitby Jet and Seed Pearl ranges. ‘And our designers are working to elevate the gemstone to the precious status it deserves by setting it with diamonds and gold,’ she added. ‘We like the idea of bringing the coast to the city because we believe it meets today’s demand for more home-grown British design and manufacture.’