Wednesday, 11 April 2012

J - Blogging from A to Z - Challenge - 11th April 2012

The Letter 'J'

Today is Wednesday 11th April and the letter 'J'. At first, I thought of the word 'jewellery' and made an Etsy treasury collection of different pieces of jewellery that I like. So here is a treasury that reflects some of my personal taste:

After reading more of Victoria Finlay's book, Jewels, A Secret History, I discovered a very old kind of jewel, that I had not known about before: Jet. (And a J-word!) I had heard the expression 'jet-black' without ever thinking about what was meant by the word 'jet'. Now I know that jet is a very black and very light-weight jewel. Jet is the fossilised wood of a now extinct conifer, 'the monkey-puzzle tree', that lived 170 million years ago.

I found some images of the 'Monkey Puzzle Tree' or Araucaria araucana, that grows in Chile and Western Argentina:

Picture source:Wikipedia

Once again, reading has opened up a new world for me. Victoria Finlay explains that one of the places where Jet was to be found and made popular during Queen Victoria's reign, was on the beaches near the English coastal town of Whitby.

Whitby is also known because it is the scene of one of the chapters of Bram Stoker's novel,
Dracula. It was at Whitby, that the fictional character, Count Dracula, arrives in a coffin!

Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their nine children

For the people of Whitby, jet became an important part of their livelihood during most of the 19th-century. It was Queen Victoria's choice of black jet for her mourning jewellery that sustained an industry for jet mining and jet bead manufacture in Whitby until the 1880s when the Queen started wearing white pearls instead of jet. Jet was so light, that large beads could be worn comfortably over the big puffy dresses worn at that time.

Queen Victoria

The first known photograph of Queen Victoria

Helen of TidelineDesigns writes in her product description:
Here at Whitby we have jet seams in the coastal cliffs and under the sea, fragments break away during bad weather are surf tumbled and finally washed up on the shore.
et is intense black in color when polished (hence the phrase 'Black as jet') is surprisingly light in weight and warm to the touch, has been used for making jewelry for hundreds of years. can be carved, cut, drilled or etched.
According to Victoria Finlay's book there is no longer any jet mines in Whitby. Jet can be found in other parts of the world, such as in China, but that is another story.

We are moving from soft to hard in the world of gems. You may remember that Baltic Amber scoles low on Moh's scale, only 2 to 2.5. Jet is also relatively soft, but is harder than Amber, scoring 2.5 to 4 on Moh's relative hardness scale.

Best wishes,

First Commenter:

Duck and Wheel with String

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