Books By Hand heading

Jet

Book with inlaid jet
A flat piece of jet inlaid into a book.
The book is approx. 10cm x 13 cm

Jet is a hard black type of lignite, a type of fossilised wood similar to coal. Its intense blackness gave rise to the expression "jet black". It has been made into jewellery and ornaments for centuries.

Jet is fairly easy to work and is often carved into quite intricate designs and highly polished.

The most abundant source in Britain is on the coast of North Yorkshire around Whitby. Small pieces are found washed up on the beaches in the locality, but those who know where to look come across much larger pieces embedded in the cliffs. Some of these pieces take the form of planks, which still show the grain of the wood from which they were formed millions of years ago.

After the death in 1861 of Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, jet became extremely popular as its colour meant that it was an eminently suitable material for jewellery, buttons and other adornments worn by people in mourning.

The word "jet" comes from Anglo-French "geet" (Old French "jaiet"), but originates in Ancient Greek "lithos gagates" which means "stone from Gagai", a town in Asia Minor, where presumably there were deposits of jet.

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