By Danielle Olivia Tefft, Jewelry Writer
If you come across an antique black brooch, or some old black beads in a jewelry box, they might just be made of jet. Jet is an organic material that, like coal, is a form of fossilized wood.
This alluring black “gem” has been found in many countries of the world including the state of Utah in the U.S., Russia, India, England, France, Spain, and China.
Specimens of jet jewelry have been found that date as far back as 1400 BC. But, the modern heyday of jet jewelry occurred during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901).
If your jet beads or other jet jewelry items are from the Victorian era, there’s a good chance they are made from Whitby Jet. Whitby is a town by the sea in northern England. Whitby became famous for its indigenous high quality jet and for the carving of jet mourning jewelry.
Queen Victoria’s enduring grief over the loss of her beloved Consort, Prince Albert in 1861 created a decades-long desire for mourning jewelry in Britain and America. Black was the color most associated with mourning and so jet jewelry fit the bill perfectly.
A very good imposter of jet is French jet, which is actually man made glass. Both materials are deep, unrelenting black in color. Hence the term “jet black.” So how do you tell the difference between the natural material and French jet? Here are a few tricks to learn and try:
These tricks help me distinguish between genuine jet and French jet glass. But I also have had years of handling both natural jet and French jet. So take heart, I have found a wonderful website with photos galore to help you learn more about jet:
The tutorial is fantastic and I am grateful to John Felton for sharing his expert guidance on the matter!
Have you came across some antique jet jewelry in your travels? If so, we'd love to hear about it in the comments section. Also, if you love jewelry from all ages, sign up for this blog so you don't miss a single article!
Danielle Olivia Tefft is a professional writer with a lifelong passion for gems and jewelry. She is a GIA accredited jewelry professional and was the owner of online antique and vintage jewelry shop, Treasure Box Antiques for many years. Current projects include writing jewelry related web copy and blogs for clients worldwide. When she is not writing, she spends time in the garden, spoiling her cats and traveling with her significant other. Would you like to hire her? Would you like to advertise on her website or blog? Visit danielleoliviatefftwrites.com for clips, terms, her media kit and more information.
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The Found in the Jewelry Box Blog is my attempt to teach others about the wonderful world of gems and jewelry, past and present. Please enjoy!