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Life at 160

Jewellery & Watch News

If proof was ever needed on the timeless appeal of Whitby Jet, then W Hamond’s 160th birthday celebrations not only provide a significant landmark but a strong indication this famous British gemstone is here to stay!

The transformation of Whitby Jet and its ability to fit into any century, decade or generation cannot be underestimated. As custodians of W Hamond, we continue to reach out to both those who already have a love of Jet and those being introduced to Whitby’s special gemstone for the first time. The creative team at W Hamond continue to excel with fabulous new collections while continuing to help educate on the heritage and history of this wonderful gemstone.

Whilst the story of raw jet started millions of years ago through the collapse, compression and chemical formation of the Araucaria (Monkey Puzzle) tree, the history of W Hamond starts in 1860. As a 19th century entrepreneur, local businessman James Storr first opened the doors of Whitby’s Original Whitby Jet Shop to accommodate the growing demand for the town’s black treasure to an admiring tourist trade. The popularity of Whitby Jet increased to fervent levels just a year later in 1861 when Queen Victoria put it on a worldwide stage, wearing it as her mourning jewellery of choice following the death of her beloved Prince Albert.

Fast forward to the present day and the legacy Storr handed down has seen our flagship Whitby Church Street boutique expand its reach with increased floor space in which to display our jewellery collections, re-open the workshop area and even open W Hamond Tea Rooms on the first floor. In addition, further W Hamond boutiques have opened in Leeds and York and, most recently, into the wonderfully restored Wesleyan Chapel on Church Street – just yards from W Hamond’s Whitby location at the foot of the Abbey steps. In its truly historic and fitting space, Wesley Hall is home to both W Hamond’s Museum of Whitby Jet and Albert’s Eatery. Regardless of where any boutique is situated, they all share a reputation for not just being another jewellery store, but an embodiment of the very best in British design with an iconic British gemstone at their heart.

As anyone who has visited Whitby can testify, the cobbled path of Church Street and the surrounding town is a hive of Whitby Jet manufacturing, often with formulaic and predictable jewellery designs. With an established reputation to uphold and new chapters to be written into the story of Whitby Jet, it is our mission at W Hamond to continue to elevate this iconic British gemstone – and never more so than in our 160th birthday celebrations. Whether it’s Whitby Jet encrusted with diamonds, a single stone of unique form or a design incorporating the finest pearls or Baltic amber, our design and workshop craftsman continue to push the boundaries and provide the quality of manufacturing Whitby Jet deserves.

Our attention to detail and craftsmanship isn’t reserved for our high-end boutique collections. For any jewellery piece which passes through our workshops, we retain the same philosophy and passion in creating the most desirable items of jewellery for all types of customers. Just as the craftsmen would have done in Sutcliffe’s famous picture of a busy Whitby Jet workshop, we have great fun creating modern and appealing collections for those visiting our town. In fact, visit any W Hamond boutique whether in Whitby, Leeds or York and you will discover a myriad of designs and collections which our reputation has been built on over the past 160 year. These include an increasing selection of antique Whitby Jet pieces through to playful new designs, such as our Sealife and Tree of Life collections. 

Over recent years, we have also seen a rising demand for Whitby Jet to be placed in engagement and wedding rings and would highly recommend a viewing should you be personally tying the knot or know of any couples planning their big day. We don’t stop at creative jewellery designs with even our packaging enabling us to offer something different, such as our limited edition Christmas Bauble which makes for a perfect place to hide a Whitby Jet gift in.

For those who are confident in shopping online or regularly engage on social media, you might have already discovered W Hamond has fully embraced the digital world. Just as W Hamond is known as the Original Whitby Jet Shop, in a modern world we are also proud to be the Original Whitby Jet Online Shop, opening for business way back in 2004 at www.whamond.com. As we move into our 17th decade, the importance of our web offering cannot be underestimated and in addition to exploring the largest selection of Whitby Jet online, you will find a wide range of news, informative resources and even a new advert here or there.

Away from our jewellery retailing, a large part of W Hamond’s continued success and reputation as a considered authority on Whitby Jet has been to put ourselves in front of new customers and those in search of Whitby Jet history. In addition to the wonderful shows we are involved with, both in the UK and overseas, our team invest a great deal of time embracing any invitation and opportunity to provide talks and demonstrations about Whitby Jet.

In further expansion of our educational services and in conjunction with the National Association of Jewellers, our Museum of Whitby Jet also ran an inaugural short course in 2019 entitled ‘Jetting to Whitby’. Across a 2-day programme, we enabled participants a fascinating insight into the Whitby Jet jewellery industry and covered areas such as how Jet is formed, the history of the Jet trade, beachcombing and identifying the gemstone. It also allowed those attending to experience rough fashioning, shaping and polishing jet. As we aim to run further ‘Jetting to Whitby’ courses in 2020 alongside many additional events and courses in our 160th year, we recommend checking our websites in the future for more details: www.whamond.com and www.museumofwhitbyjet.co.uk  

With 159 years behind us and a bright black future ahead, the fact W Hamond remains synonymous with Whitby Jet is ultimately a testament to the hard work of our individual members of staff. Across all our boutiques, they share a passion for the development and education of Whitby Jet and, above all else, finding the right piece of jewellery for our customers.