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In the 19th century Whitby became famous around the Western world for jet, a very hard, black form of natural carbon found in thin seams along the North Yorkshire coast that’s often worked into jewelry and ornaments. Known since prehistoric times and sometimes used to ward off the evil eye, it reached the peak of its popularity in the 1850s, when 1,400 men and boys, supplied by 200 miners, made a good living in jewelry workshops throughout the town. The queen of Bavaria was impressed enough to order a chain more than 4 feet long. Following the death of her husband, Queen Victoria introduced jet into court circles, making it an essential part of fashionable mourning regalia.
You can see fine examples in the Whitby Museum on St. Hilda's Terrace and in shops along Church Street and parallel to Sandgate in the old town. If you buy a piece, keep it shiny with baby oil.Updated: 10-2013
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