Derbyshire Blue John is a semi-precious gemstone considered to be one of Britain’s rarest minerals. The distinctive bands of purple, blue and yellow that run through the stone make each piece of Blue John jewellery completely unique. We have been handcrafting award-winning Blue John jewellery for over 30 years while maintaining an unrivalled design service with a skilled team of lapidarists that transform each piece of naturally formed Blue John gemstone into elegant jewellery designs.
What is Blue John?
Blue John, also known as Derbyshire Fluorspar, is a semi-precious mineral famed for its gorgeous purple, blue and yellow colouring. It is considered Britain’s rarest mineral since the majority of Blue John mines are now extinct, with only a few small veins and nodules of the gemstone remaining. The rarity of this semi-precious gemstone makes the jewellery it adorns that more valuable.
The name ‘Blue John’ is believed to have originated from the French term ‘blue et jaune’ which translates to ‘blue and yellow’ reflecting the stone’s distinctive colour. The gemstone is highly valued for its ornamental variety of Fluor-Spa, also known as Calcium Fluoride, which differs from any other variation of fluor-spa found due to its unique crystal structure and striking coloured veins.
Where is Blue John found?
The only known deposit of rare Blue John gemstone is found in the hillside of Castleton in Hope Valley, Derbyshire. Peak Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern, all located in Castleton, England, house this rare semi-precious stone. It is believed that the first examples of Blue John were discovered by the Romans two-thousand years ago when they were likely to have been mining for deposits of lead ore, striking upon the rare fluorspar purely by chance.
Treak Cliff Cavern was first opened for mining in 1745 and is now one of only two working Blue John mines in the world. It is widely believed that Treak Cliff Cavern was also the first mine ever to excavate the gemstone. They are still a working mine today, however due to the rarity of the stone, mining only continues on a very small scale during the quiet winter months. Nevertheless, the cavern remains open to tourists throughout the year allowing visitors the witness the birthplace of the rare, purple and blue gemstone.
History of Blue John
It is believed that the first extracts of Blue John were discovered by the Romans two-thousand years ago. The Romans, settling three miles from Castleton in the village of Brough, were assumed to have been searching for deposits of lead ore when they discovered the semi-precious gemstone out of luck. Being the keen mineralogists that they were, the Romans would have instantly recognised the rare beauty of the Blue John mineral and turned it into jewellery and ornaments. There are also reports that indicate that two Blue John vases were discovered in Pompeii proving that Blue John was transported overseas and treasured for its ornamental value.
It was during the 19th century and the Regency period that Blue John reached the peak of its popularity. The semi-precious gemstone was highly regarded for its unique colour and crafted into vases, tables, columns and even windows, being found only in the houses of the upper class like that of Buckingham Palace and Chatsworth House.
However, during the first world war, there was a high demand for supplies to assist with the war effort. Varieties of fluorspar, including Blue John, were extracted for use in the chemical industry and as flux in blast furnaces. Due to the rising need for the mineral, Blue John was heavily mined leaving remaining veins in short supply.
During the mid-1920’s, in an attempt to retrieve any remaining veins of Blue John that may still have existed, miners used explosives within the caves. Out of pure luck, the miners discovered an extension to the natural cavern decorated with stalactites. The land owner at the time, Colonel Broadbent, took it upon himself to protect and preserve the remaining cave passageways and on April 1st, 1935, he opened the caves to the public for the very first time.
In 1945, the Blue John caverns were taken over by the Harrison family following the death of the old miner John Royse. Before his retirement, John Royse reported that he had discovered a previously unknown source of Blue John within the caverns, however, he died before he was able to reveal the location. For many years it was in doubt whether this new vein ever existed. Then in January 2013, this ‘Lost Vein’ of Blue John was rediscovered after 68 years concealed by wooden battens, a piece of carpet and a layer of clay. This lost vein of Blue John was one of Derbyshire’s greatest mysteries and its discovery relit the country’s love for this gorgeous British gemstone.
More recently in 2015, another vein of Blue John was discovered by a miner experimenting with a new specialist chainsaw method. This new vein was named the ‘Ridley Vein’ after its discoverer Gary Ridley. The new discovery entered the record books for becoming the fifteenth variety of Blue John vein.
W Hamond and Blue John Jewellery
We have been designing and handcrafting exquisite collections of Blue John jewellery for over 30 years, sourcing the raw gemstone from the Treak Cliff Cavern before cutting, polishing and setting it into sterling silver and gold. Our award-winning collections are made within our own Derbyshire-based workshops where our team of skilled lapidarists transform each piece of naturally formed Blue John gemstone into stunning pieces of jewellery.
With exclusive access to this prized gemstone, we are able to produce jewellery that is bespoke to anything created before and since each vein of Blue John is so different in its colours and shapes, every piece of Blue John jewellery we design is completely unique. This rare and highly treasured gemstone makes for the most valuable procession for anyone who loves fine jewellery and award-winning British design.