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Norman and his jet
Get with the Jet set
By Lee Johnson
It’s black, shiny and you probably own some jewellery made from it, but what exactly is Whitby Jet?
We’ve all seen the rows of jewellery shops down the tight streets of Whitby displaying trinkets made of Jet, but have you ever wondered what Jet is and where it comes from?
Jet is one of the world’s oldest gemstones and can be found right along the North Yorkshire coastline. It is formed from the fossilised remains of the Araucaria tree, more commonly known as a Monkey-puzzle tree, which dates back to the Jurassic period.
Jet is not exclusive to our region, it can be found all over the world in places like France, Germany and the USA, but Whitby Jet is considered to be the finest specimen around due to its large amounts of aluminium.
Norman at work
It is thought that Jet was first used in the Bronze Age to manufacture jewellery, a trend that was continued by the Romans and into the Victorian era. The first Whitby Jet shop opened in 1808, and since then it has become synonymous with the town.
Norman Robinson has been a traditional Whitby Jet sculptor for over 10 years.
“My father was a lecturer in Geology and he taught me all about the coastline and where you could fine Jet, so myself and my brothers and would go out and find it and sell it to local craftsmen.
“Jet is basically fossilised wood from the Jurassic period, so it’s about 170 million years old. When tree trunks came down a large river system, they became waterlogged and sank to the bottom of the sea.
“They were then covered in silt and mud and also plankton, and it was the oil from the decaying plankton that would impregnate the wood and give it that dark black look which would eventually make Jet.
“It’s very difficult to find, but if you look long and hard enough you can find small seams of it along the coastline and on the beaches.”
You can listen how Whitby Jet jewellery is made by clicking on the link in the 'see also' section.
last updated: 27/03/2008 at 16:04