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Carved cameo Whitby jet brooch, ca.1860

--Black as Jet (www.blackasjet.co.uk)

Definition: a type of fossilized driftwood (similar to coal), hard and black or very dark brown in color; capable of being carved, faceted and polished to a soft warm sheen; found principally in Yorkshire, England, but also in Spain, France's Aude region, Germany and other parts of northern Europe, Asia and North America; while used for jewelry by the ancient Romans, and sporadically in Europe thereafter, jet flourished in the 19th century, as one of the few substances considered appropriate for mourning jewelry (though it was worn outside of mourning too); declined after 1875, supplanted by cheaper options such as black onyx (chalcedony), black tourmaline, black glass ("French jet") and vulcanite. Dwindling supplies of quality material, preferences for more delicate pieces - though light, jet jewelry tends to be large and massive-looking - and less rigid mourning-dress strictures in the early 20th century also contributed to a loss of interest in jet.

Example: During its mid-19th century heyday, the best jet jewelry came from the town of Whitby, in Yorkshire - in fact, travelers abroad often found jet pieces that originated in the English town.

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