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A Superb Victorian Whitby Jet Brooch Circa 1860s - Mourning Jewellery

This lovely highly carved oval Whitby Jet brooch has a raised domed style and is carved with bunches of wheat. Wheat is symbolic as it represents renewal, rebirth and abundance and in mourning jewellery it would have indicated the long and fruitful life enjoyed by the deceased. For Christians wheat represents the body of Christ and is symbolic of immortality and resurrection.  This Victorian Whitby Jet brooch is 2 inches in length, an inch and three quarters wide and the depth of this brooch is about three quarters of an inch. I have photographed it with a £1 coin so you can see how large and splendid it is!   This black jet antique brooch has its extra long pin fastened securely at the reverse on each end and the pin itself is a silver coloured metal and it is retained in an old fashioned 'c' shaped clasp. It is in excellent condition with no cracks or scratches and it has a lovely patina with a good sheen to its surface and well-defined carvings. Victorian Whitby Jet jewellery is getting increasingly hard to source. Finding it in really good order, bright and shiny and so wearable is always a joy!   These English brooches were in fashion from the middle to the end of the 19th Century.  Pieces were displayed at the British Great Exhibition in 1851 and the popularity of jewellery hand carved in this natural material surged in the mid to late Victorian period. Jet is light and so is very suitable for creating large statement jewels.


Designer or Brand: No, this is a 'one off'

Country of Origin: UK

Condition: Excellent

Decade: 1860s

Era: Antique

Type: Brooch

Material: Whitby Jet  and white metal


Jet is a natural material, the fossilised remains of the monkey puzzle tree. Seams of Jet occur around the Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby and Jet has been used to make jewellery for as long as man has existed. Stone age man made amulets from it and the Romans prized its lightness and lustre and used it in their jewellery. In the medieval times it was used to make religious and ecclesiastical jewels such as rosaries and crosses .

The heyday for Jet is the mid-Victorian age. After Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria was in mourning and jet jewellery was the only adornment permitted at court. The etiquette of Victorian mourning dictated black clothing, the crinoline was in fashion and Jet with its natural lightness was ideal for the big and bold type of jewellery popular at that time. The rise of the jet industry was also helped by the advent of the railway and the seaside day tripper or holiday maker who wanted to take home a souvenir. By the 1870s there were 200 workshops employing 1500 men, women and children in the small town of Whitby producing jet jewellery and artifacts.

During the peak years Whitby hadn't enough Jet to meet demand, so cheaper ,inferior, jet was brought in from abroad. Mainly used to make beads, this jet had a habit of cracking easily. At the same time Victorian invention made jet substitutes like French jet (which was actually just black glass), vulcanite, other compositions and pressed horn. Whilst bog oak and cannel coal were natural substitutes. All these were cheaper and inferior to jet and are someway to blame for the decline of the industry. The final straw was Victoria coming out of her long period of mourning and the fashions for lighter and brighter clothes that didn't need the huge bold black jewels that looked so good with crinolines. By 1884 there were only 300 people left employed in the Whitby Jet industry.

It is easy to see why collectors love to own genuine Whitby Jet jewellery and this pin would make a lovely addition to a collection .

A Superb Victorian Whitby Jet Brooch Circa 1860s - Mourning Jewellery
A Superb Victorian Whitby Jet Brooch Circa 1860s - Mourning Jewellery A Superb Victorian Whitby Jet Brooch Circa 1860s - Mourning Jewellery A Superb Victorian Whitby Jet Brooch Circa 1860s - Mourning Jewellery A Superb Victorian Whitby Jet Brooch Circa 1860s - Mourning Jewellery

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