Whitby Jet

In the 19th century, Whitby became famous around the Western world as a source of jet, a semi-precious black gemstone found in thin seams along the North Yorkshire coast. Worked into jewelry and ornaments since around 1400 BC, it's reputed to ward off the evil eye. At the peak of its popularity, 1,400 Whitby 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 Prince Albert in 1861, 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.

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