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World's Largest Whitby Jet Specimen Exhibited at the 2014 Gem-A Conference

Jewellery & Watch News

Whitby Jet is a rare commodity, with small pieces occasionally washing up onto the beaches, and seams appearing in the cliffs only seldom. It is found within an approximate ten mile radius of the seaside town of Whitby, North Yorkshire.

So it was with huge excitement that at this years 2014 Gem-A conference in London, for the first time ever, the largest piece of Whitby Jet in the world was finally unveiled as a complete piece, twenty-one foot long in total!

The one of a kind specimen is an entire Araucaria (Monkey Puzzle) tree trunk, which fell somewhere between one hundred and eighty and two hundred million years ago. The steady build up of sediment and detritus settling on top of the tree created an intense amount of pressure and complete lack of oxygen to the organic material which, over time eventually resulted in its transformation into a dense but light in weight gemstone material which can achieve a mirror-like shine and has the ability to be carved into the most intricate designs.

The internationally acclaimed annual Gem-A conference attracts hundreds of like minded jewellery and gemstone enthusiasts from around the world, and having formed a close relationship with the association as well as becoming a major sponsor for the event, it seemed like the perfect place for W. Hamond and C.W Sellors to showcase this incredible museum quality piece.

What captivated most about the giant specimen was the fascinating markings embedded onto the gemstones surface. When the tree originally fell, it crushed all of the life underneath it, leaving impressions of ammonites, shells and various plant life, along with the trees visible bark-like texture and wood knots still perfectly preserved from the Jurassic era. The other side of the trunk, which originally faced up, is of course without these distinctive markings, and through the cross section is the perfectly smooth, black finish of the gem quality material. 

Examples of modern Whitby Jet jewellery were also on show at the conference, from simple designs set in sterling silver to high end Jet jewellery set in 18ct gold and alongside fine diamonds. The history of the gemstone was also explained through a collection of rare and important Victorian pieces that link to its connection with Queen Victoria and British aristocracy.

The purpose of this exhibition was to show that as well as the multitude of fine gemstones from around the globe, we have gemstone materials that are just as impressive on our own shores, and the steady growth and recognition that Whitby Jet is having within the jewellery industry is undeniable, with beautiful W. Hamond boutiques not only gracing Whitby but the cities of York and Leeds too, a growing appreciation for British product and craftsmanship means the appeal of Whitby Jet is high, but be assured, no matter how strong the demand, the worlds largest piece of Whitby Jet will always remain intact!  

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