The Antiques for Everyone's Whitby Jet Exhibition is a journey through time, and a story told through the world’s largest antique and rough Jet specimen collection, most of which is being debuted for the first time at Birmingham’s NEC between 19 - 22 November 2015.
The small seaside town of Whitby, North Yorkshire, is not just the setting for Bram Stoker’s book Dracula, or the one-time home of explorer Captain Cook, but it is also a place where one can stroll along its beaches and, with a keen eye and a bit of patience, maybe find a very unique organic gemstone, called Whitby Jet.
Whitby Jet is made from the fossilised remains of the Araucaria tree (Monkey Puzzle tree) which existed in vast forests along the North Yorkshire coastline during the Jurassic Period.
With a history dating back even to the Stone Age, Whitby Jet has been used to make items of jewellery and body adornments for thousands of years, but it is best known for its years of flourishing success during the Victorian era.
After the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1862, British monarch Queen Victoria entered into a sustained period of mourning and selected Whitby Jet as her gemstone of choice to represent her feelings throughout this time. This Royal patronage, along with the remarkable detail in which the gemstone could be carved, its comfortableness when being worn due to its lightness in weight and warmth to the touch, and its in vogue colour ‘black’, led it to be one of the most successful and desirable jewellery trends in history.
Fascinating talks will be given, delving deep into the history and culture of Whitby Jet, explaining the strict rules of mourning dress, the symbolism of the jet carvings, and the gemstones’ importance to the royal court of the 19th century.
Visitors will also be able to see how Whitby Jet is being worked today, from modern jewellery designs aimed at an international market, to one-off creations appearing on the red carpet.
A fitting statement for a fascinating and truly British gemstone.