Victorian Whitby Jet Cameo EarringsIrene Byrne & Co
There is a lot of depth behind antique Whitby jet jewellery, which is easily not thought of at a first glance.
Two of our favourite attributes about Whitby jet, is that it’s fossilised wood from the Jurassic era. Which means, the material used to make these incredible Victorian Whitby jet cameo earrings, was part of a world so remote and primordial... we can only fantasise about.
The second bit of trivia about Whitby Jet, which we find fascinating, is that in order to be qualified as a craftsman for carving and handling Whitby jet…one had to endure an extensive apprenticeship often spanning over a decade, before one was even allowed to touch the petrified wood with tools.
Both of these aspects, makes Whitby jet enigmatic in a way; a perfect reason to invest in a piece of two. Who wouldn’t want to wear pure magic from a bygone World?
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Circa: Victorian c.1860
Material: Whitby Jet - Petrified wood dating from the Jurassic period
Origin: Whitby, North Yorkshire, England
Motif: Profile of two Grecian women
Victorian Period (1837 - 1901):
The Victorian Period defined by none other than Queen Victoria herself, had three stages - the Romantic, the Grand and the Aesthetic.
It was during the Romantic era that Queen Victoria married her Prince, Albert. Sentimental motifs such as; hearts, lover’s knots, flowers, bows, crescent moons and particularly serpents (which was subject to Queen Victoria’s engagement ring which represented enduring love) became extremely popular in jewellery design. Cameos, Enamelling and the use of bright coloured gemstones such as; garnets, amethysts, turquoise, pearls and diamonds gave way to the creation of jewellery that was beginning to speak a symbolic language of its own.
The Grand era was a sombre period which saw Queen Victoria mourning the death of her beloved husband Albert. It encompassed 20 years during which time Victoria would only wear black and mourning jewellery. As a result the Whitby Jet industry flourished and onyx and deeper coloured garnets rose in popularity. Rings, lockets and brooches were commissioned with compartments for a lock of a loved one’s hair and were often engraved with the person’s name, age and date of death.
The Aesthetic era saw a return to the light-heartedness of the Romantic Era. The discoveries being made through archaeology led to an Etruscan Revival with Greek, Roman and Renaissance influences becoming apparent in jewellery design as well as symbols of good luck and fortune.