Monkey Puzzle tree

A Monkey Puzzle Tree, Araucaria araucana

Is Whitby Jet Monkey Puzzle? The simple answer is NO, Whitby jet is NOT monkey puzzle wood. Often Whitby jet is quoted as being formed from trees similar to the Monkey Puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, this, however, is simply untrue and has arisen from a confusion in the taxonomy of paleobotanical specimens in Victorian times. In the early C19th, when geological sciences were in their infancy it was common for all fossilised wood to be called ‘Auaucarian’ material. The early geologists were aware that Araucaria araucana was an ancient species so the term was used as a catch-all to describe all such fossils. Although the Araucariaceae family achieved its maximum diversity during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, when it was distributed almost worldwide it doesnt mean that all jurassic wood fossils are made from this species. There are still 42 extant (living) members of the Araucariaceae family today, which includes the Monkey Puzzle and each member looks totally unique. Modern day botanists tell us that even in freshly cut samples from the living species, it is a tricky task to distinguish between them in thin section. This difficulty is further exasperated in the fossilised jet and in many cases no species can be determined. Part of my research involves looking for alternative methods to determin species and promising progress has been made recently so watch this space! Although we know that Whitby jet is formed from multiple different species of tree the jewellery trade is reluctant to address this issue as the Monkey Puzzle myth helps to sell jewellery, it’s a case of ‘why let science get in the way of a good story!’ This myth was disproved in the 1920’s, confirmed in the 1930’s and proven untrue again in the 1990’s using up to date paleobotanical criteria. To date, six tree species have been identified imn European jet materials and none of those are Araucaria araucana. At the Ebor Jetworks we like to inform our customers of the truth and sadly therefore we must dispel this monkey puzzle myth! More about our advanced jet testing here More about Whitby Jet simulants Whitby Jet simulants

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