Jet has been collected and worked into
objects of personal adornment for thousands of years, with beads, buttons, earrings, and
belt-sliders having been found in Bronze Age burial sites throughout the UK. Once Bronze
Age craftsmen discovered that the act of polishing jet caused it (by virtue of its
electrostatic property) to be able to 'magically' attract chaff, straw, and sawdust to
itself, jet became valued not only for personal adornment, but also as a powerful bringer
of good fortune.
Necklace found in the Man Toft Barrow, Egton, near Whitby.
Romans made extensive use of jet during the early part of the first millennium AD, with
Roman jet workshops situated in York sending worked jet
ornaments and jewellery to all
parts of the Roman Empire.After the Roman armies
left in the 4th century AD, Britain
entered into the Dark Ages, and was for the next
500 years under constant attack from
invading armies. Although the small scale use
of jet continued throughout this troubled
period, it was not until the Vikings settled
in the 9th century AD that jet once more came
to be more widely used for jewellery
and small carvings.
Similar carved jet pendants such as these
examples, featuring Medusa heads have been found on Roman sites in
invading Vikings had either left, or had settled and become assimilated into
predominantly Anglo-Saxon and Celtic cultures, jet was for the next thousand years used
mainly for ecclesiastical jewellery such as crosses, rosaries, and rings.Then, in the
early 1800s, the use of jet for jewellery and ornaments began what would prove to be
dramatic resurgence in popularity which would last until the end of the 19th century.
History Of Whitby Jet