The Secret Life of Gems based on Victoria Finlay's book Jewels: A Secret History, features jet, a gem that I happy to report knew nothing about until cracking open chapter two.
Though I do admit that I have a slight jet fetish, where I sometimes feel the urge to visit Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry and peruse their splendid selection of Victorian adornment that includes a wonderful collection of jet broaches, cameos, and earrings, I've never known jet's deeper history.
By the way, have you visited Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry before? I usually run over to Morning Glory when I want to get inspired by Victorian tastes. Even more interesting are the old photographs of these somber ladies from the nineteenth century wearing their jewelry of mourning made out of jet.
I won't ruin the best part of chapter two from Jewels: A Secret History, by divulging the true nature of an ancient skeleton found wearing a necklace of six hundred jet beads, but I will give you a peek into how this gem took center stage during the nineteenth century.
In 1861, Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria died and plunged the widow into forty years of public mourning. Though the practice of mourning was already an important part of Victorian England, the Queen made a bold fashion statement by consistently adorning herself with Whitby jet, black jewels that adequately symbolized grieving in the Western world.
Crazed by the demand for jet, Victorian England experienced a bit of a gold rush where hoards of people started combing beaches looking for remnants of this ancient fossilized tree that made its home with dinosaurs. Since jet is really decaying wood that experienced extreme pressure, the material is lightweight and is the perfect accessory for wearing over heavy, puffy Victorian dresses.
Though jet would not be my first choice when creating jewelry, I've always been intrigued by its black color and how artists have shaped it through elaborate carving. Now after reading chapter two of Victoria Finlay's Jewels: A Secret History, I learned that long before Queen Victoria's cult of mourning, during the Roman era, jet may have been connected to a much darker cult...
May you enjoy discovering this ancient secret for yourself :)