Black Beauties

Victorian earrings from Whitby Jett, England circa 1875

In December 1862, Albert, Queen Victoria's prince consort, died of thypus at the age of 42. The death of her beloved husband hit the monarch hard. Victoria decreed a two-year state mourning and wore only mourning clothes until the end of her life (an astonishing 39 years in total!). In general, mourning times in the 19th century were precisely regulated and the associated regulations for appropriate clothing and mourning jewellery were strict: all coloured jewellery was forbidden and only those in the colours black, silver and white were permitted. This period saw the astonishing rise of English Jett jewellery. Jett is chemically a particularly dense coal and can be polished in such a way that a lacquer-like sheen is created. The material is also relatively light and pleasantly warm when worn on the skin. The most important place where jett was found was near Whitby in northern England, from where the material began its triumphal march around the world. The present pair of antique earrings is one such piece of jewellery made from jett. The danglers are constructed in three parts and present two intricately carved arch elements with floral designs, in the center of which hangs a pendulum. The jet black surfaces gleam wonderfully in the light. The light weight of the jett makes the earrings surprisingly light despite their size. Today, detached from convention and regulations, the pair can also be used without sadness as a decorative accessory in fashionable black.

Jett, gagat or "black amber" is a special form of fossilized coal, which was already used as jewelry in prehistoric times because of its unique luster and easy carving. Already the Romans made jewellery and amulets from this material; from the Middle Ages onwards it was used in Europe for mourning jewellery and rosaries. At the end of the 19th century, during the heyday of jett fashion, jett was mainly used for jewellery. Because of its light weight, the material made it possible to produce large pieces of jewellery, as was the fashion at the time. The main source of high quality jett at this time was on the north coast of England near the fishing village of Whitby. From here, jewellery made of jett made its way to all of Europe. Through the World's Fair of 1851 in London, carvings of jagat then became known worldwide, and after Queen Victoria had forbidden the wearing of jewellery (with the exception of jett) at the English court after the death of the Prince Consort in 1861, jett was considered mourning jewellery for a long time, until it became a fixed part of fashion, which could be worn even without displaying it in mourning.

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You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

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We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.

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