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History of Whitby Jet

For over 150 years, W Hamond have created stunning collections of Whitby Jet jewellery and in the meantime become one of the UK’s leading independent family run jewellers. But long before W Hamond opened its doors in 1860, Jet stone had been forming across the coast of Whitby for millions of years.

Whitby Jet is one of just a few organic gemstones in the world naturally formed from fossilised wood, like that of the Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria tree. Millions of years ago, this wood became washed up into a body of water and covered by organic sediment. The pressure beneath all this matter over so many years eventually compacted the wood and transformed it into what we know as Whitby Jet today.

Many people believe that you must visit the far corners of the world to discover unique and exotic gemstones, but right on our doorstep, in the small fishing town of Whitby in Yorkshire, you can find a beautiful jet-black gemstone that has mesmerised people for centuries. The deep, intense blackness of Whitby Jet is where the term ‘jet black’ derives from while its smooth and lightweight characteristics have made it the perfect adornment for jewellery.

Jet stone has been found all over the world including Spain, Germany, the USA and China but it is widely agreed that the finest of its kind is found in Whitby. It is also believed that the first deposits of Jet stone were discovered in Whitby since examples of Jet jewellery have been dated back to the Neolithic man and the Romans who transported the gemstone from Whitby to York to use it to carve out sculptures.

Nevertheless, it was in the mid 1800’s that the popularity of Whitby Jet really begun to grow. In 1851, the stunning gemstone was displayed at the Great Exhibition in London where it became coveted by a number of high-profile royals including the Queen of Bavaria and the Empress of France. Then in 1861, when Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert passed away, the monarch took to wearing the stone as jewellery in remembrance of him. She even disallowed any other jewellery to be worn in court during this time.

With Queen Victoria as a prolific patron and the seaside town of Whitby gaining popularity as a holiday destination, Whitby Jet became one of the most fashionable and highly desired gemstones in the Victorian era.  It was also during this time that James Storr, a local man of Whitby, decided to open the Original Whitby Jet Shop and begin manufacturing his own unique and exquisite examples of Whitby Jet jewellery.

Now known as W Hamond, the Original Whitby Jet Shop, remains in the very same spot at the top of Whitby's historic Church Street and at the foot of the famous Abbey steps, becoming an unmoveable part of the town’s heritage.  150 years later and we continue to design and handcraft every piece of Whitby Jet jewellery in our windows. From appearing on the red carpet, to cameos in Hollywood movies, Whitby Jet remains a highly coveted and fashionable gemstone to wear today.

Not only do we continue to craft and sell Jet jewellery in Whitby but we also have two boutiques in Leeds and York. With such a strong connection to North Yorkshire, it seemed only right to share this gorgeous and unique gemstone with the rest of the county. If you want to discover our stunning collections of Whitby Jet jewellery, you can find them on our website or in our boutiques.