Jet: From morbid to modern

You’ve heard the expression ‘as black as jet.’ But did you ever stop to wonder what is jet exactly?

Jet is a black material used in jewelry –  it can be carved, cut, polished, and set like a gemstone. Most notably, it is linked to Victorian mourning jewelry. 1st

Unlike most gemstones, Jet is actually fossilized wood which has been compressed over millions of years. Its distinctive characteristic is its intense deep black color. It is very lightweight, so large and elaborate pieces could be made from it, and worn comfortably. It can also take on an extremely high polish to the extent that it can even be used as mirrors!

The finest quality Jet comes from England around the north-east coast of Yorkshire in a town named Whitby.

Whitby Jet was first popularized as souvenir items when the railway took early Victorian holiday makers to this seaside town.

In 1861, when her beloved husband Albert died, Queen Victoria took to wearing Jet jewelry in remembrance of him and Jet soon became the accessory de rigueur to compliment the period’s elegant mourning fashion – so much so that only Jet jewelry was allowed to be worn at court.

After Victorian times, Jet jewelry fell out of favor and has been largely forgotten or viewed as a quaint Victorian custom.

Today, however, Jet is making a comeback. Its color and versatility allows it to be used in an endless array of designs with modern jewelers like Jacqueline Cullen using it exclusively in her work and reinventing how it can be thought of by combing it with gold and diamonds; look closely and you’ll see tiny black diamonds burnished right into the material in one of Cullen’s bangles!

Jacqueline Cullen jewelry was worn by the evil character Narcissa in 2009′s Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and has also made appearances in editorial publications ranging from InStyle to Vogue.

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