We think of a 40-year period during the mid to late C19th as the heyday in Whitby Jet manufacture, and from a jewellery output perspective that is unequivocally true.
British Society is participating in a national obsession with mourning. With the death in 1830 of George IV, the Lord Chamberlains office dictates the dress code for the period, and states unequivocally that “the ornament shall be jet” and in 1830 the term “jet” meant only one material…..Whitby Jet.
The death of the Duke of Wellington in 1852 prompted the production of Whitby Jet jewellery into overdrive, the 50 recorded workshops in 1850 then swelled to 204 following the death of Prince Albert in 1861 as yet another wave of mourning sweeps the nation.
Contemporary descriptions of the jet workshops describe men covered in a mixture of ginger-brown jet dust and the powdered red rouge they used to polish the jet. They are affectionately referred to as “The Red Devils”.