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Roman Age Jet Jewellery

The style in which jet jewellery was crafted changed dramatically during the Roman era. Generally, simple beads, shapes and forms were replaced by sometimes very intricate carvings. Gorgons and other mythical creatures were a popular theme.

The majority of jet used by the ancient Roman’s was obtained from Lycia (modern Turkey), although a lot also came from Yorkshire. Rough jet was gathered from the beaches at low tide and when required, small tunnels were made using picks and shovel-like tools.

A number of shallow pits can be seen in the first edition 6-inch ordnance survey maps of Roseberry Topping in Cleveland, which local authorities believe to be Roman jet workings.

There is evidence of jet being worked in the city of York as early as the 2nd century AD, although its popularity greatly increased into the 3rd century and throughout the 4th.

Underneath what is todays railway station once existed a large jet workshop, a site of substantial size and importance, which would have distributed items of worked jet to all corners of the Roman Empire. 

One particularly fascinating artefact found in York was a jet hair curler, dating back 2000 years. It was found in a Roman grave underneath the skull of a woman, which was worn as a decorative hair ornament at the time of her burial. The Yorkshire Museum commissioned W Hamond, to make an accurate replica of the piece. It took many hours of meticulous work by master jeweller and lapidary, Paul Barker, for the intricate design to be completed.

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