Saturday, 26 November 2011

Jet (lignite)

courtesy Detlef thomas via wikipedia
Jet jewellery

courtesy Graham Proud via wikipedia
Whitby Harbour
Queen Victoria took mourning to a whole new level with the death of her beloved Albert. Social occasions were cancelled at court and hushed voices became the norm. Laughter was banned and the nation became very black and gloomy. Black cloth was the order of the day, something that won the Queen few friends in the textile industry. However, one little fishing village, Whitby, in north Yorkshire, rich in jet flourished. It is found in Whitby estuary and for several miles along the coast. It became a rare beneficiary of the court mourning, where no coloured jewels were permitted. Queen Victoria, however, was known to wear a glistening jet tiara from time to time.
Queen Victoria with 5 of her children in mourning
Jet is a geological material and considered to be a minor gemstone. It comes from the fossilised trunk of the Monkey Puzzle tree formed during the Jurassic age. Many people imagine that it is a derivative of coal, which too is fossilised wood. However, coal was formed during the Carboniferous age. The jet found in Whitby is approximately 182 million years old. Why is it that there is Jet in Whitby?
During the mid-Jurassic period the British Isles was located further south in the latitude of Northern Spain and Portugal. It was, therefore, nearer the equator and had a climate to match. The dominant species of tree was the Araucaria (Monkey Puzzle tree), and very similar to the ones we see today.
Monkey Puzzle tree - Araucaria under snow in Kew Garden via wikipedia
A few more gems from Whitby; Wonderful fish; Captain Cook learnt his sailing craft in Whitby and set off on many of his famed voyages of discovery in Endeavour, his Whitby flat bottomed  ship; Whitby Abbey founded in 656 by Oswy, the Christian King of Northumbria; Bram Stoker set part of his book, Dracula, in Whitby, describing Dracula's arrival on the Russian ship, Demeter,  which was shipwrecked, and washed ashore in the harbour.
courtesy J3Mrs via wikipedia
You can see the Abbey ruins behind the church, and if you click on the photo it is possible to see the famous 199 steps where Dracula ran up to the graveyard, in the shape of a black dog.


  1. an interesting piece of information Rosemary! complitely unknown to me and therefor thankful to have read about it...
    English history has always fascinated me : )

  2. Dear Demie - Communities in every country have an interesting history attached if we seek them out. Your home country, Greece, in particular has the most incredible history.

  3. I did not know any of this information, except of course that Queen Victoria went into deep mourning. Sometimes I come across jet buttons in my collecting, and now I'll have a greater appreciation of them. I tend to prefer the minor gemstones and minerals, and malachite ranks as my favorite.

  4. Interesting post and I am now keen to visit Whitby...

  5. Hi Mark - antique jet buttons must be rather attractive, especially if they are faceted or carved. My favourite minor gemstone is lapis lazuli.

  6. Dear Nat - Whitby is a good place to visit. Next time you are in Yorkshire do go and see.

  7. I have always been fascinated with jet. Wonderful gem. And you remind me of the Captain of the ship which brought Dracula to our shores: his bravery, evidenced through his ship's log, was wonderful. It made such an amazing yarn.

    I have never been to Whitby. I must go.

  8. Kate, walking up the steps to the church, as the light goes down, gives you shivers up your back - best to do it on a bright sunny day.

  9. Beautiful post!
    Congratulations Rosemary

  10. Dear Antonio - I am glad that you enjoyed it.

  11. thanks rosemary. i love reading little histories of places and events. and you write them so well. this was fascinating.

  12. Dear Annette - thanks so much for your encouraging comments, and pleased that you found it of interest.


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