Museum Monday: Jet Jewelry

Jet has its beginnings in the Jurassic period, and is the fossilized wood of pine forests that died out about 175 million years ago. It is an organic gem, like pearls or amber, and is black, lightweight, and easily carved into sculptural pieces. Jet has been mined and used as jewelry in the British Isles since the earliest of times. 

  Whitby jet beads found at a burial in Killy Kiaran, Scotland. c. 2050 - 1800 BCE. National Museums, Scotland. 

 

Whitby jet beads found at a burial in Killy Kiaran, Scotland. c. 2050 - 1800 BCE. National Museums, Scotland. 

The material was especially popular during the Victorian era, and was an integral part of the costume and pomp of nineteenth-century ladies’ mourning attire. 

Carved jet bracelet, English c. 1870. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.  

Carved jet bracelet, English c. 1870. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.  

We had some Victorian jet beads hiding in the Gray & Davis safe, so we decided to add some simple 14 karat gold hooks and turn them into earrings. 

Antique jet beads on 14k yellow gold hooks. Available for sale at Gray & Davis. 

Antique jet beads on 14k yellow gold hooks. Available for sale at Gray & Davis. 

At it turns out, there is a very similar pair in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art which dates c. 1880:

Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Metropolitan Museum of Art 

How neat!