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.
This seventy year period changes our cultural relationship with jet. A contemporary account tells us “…mourning caused the jet boom, and mourning killed it….”
This period does however give us some of the finest examples of stone engraving the world has ever seen. The skills of the ‘jet-age’ were lost with the death in 1963 of Joe Lythe, the last man trained by a Victorian apprenticed jet worker.