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What is Whitby Jet Made From?



We may have been working with Whitby Jet for a long time but we still can’t get enough of how it is formed. It’s quite the story. The gem has been around for a long time and was first found in the Jurassic era along the coast of North Yorkshire and still is. It’s millions and millions of years old and captivates the world with its origins, history and striking black hue. 


How is Whitby Jet Formed?


The pieces of Whitby Jet that is found washed up on the coastline was once a Acaucaria tree. They tend to go by the name of Monkey Puzzle or Chilean Pine nowadays. Millions and millions of years ago, these trees were forced into the ocean by a natural disaster during the Jurassic Era. Whilst in the sea, they became waterlogged with water falling to the seabed and becoming stuck in sedimentary mud. An anaerobic seal stopped decomposition due to the lack of air, oxygen and light. All of the wood soaked up the hydrocarbon oils, which caused chemical changes in the plant cells and prevented silicification. This is where organic matter is replaced by silica. The ancient trees stayed trapped for many, many, many years (about 180 - 200 million) with layers of sedimentary mud building on top. The huge amount of pressure and lack of oxygen caused for the trees to turn into Whitby Jet, which is known as the fossilisation process. 




Where to Find Whitby Jet?


Whitby Jet is found along the 7.5 mile North Yorkshire coastline. Back in the Victorian Era, Jet was exhaustively mined however, it is now forbidden due to mines becoming too dangerous or collapsing already. All of the gems found on the beach are from the cliffs that loom over the North Sea. Therefore, to collect Whitby Jet from natural erosion it’s a good idea to head to the beach after a storm. The violent weather causes for Jet to become loose from the cliff and left on the beach to be found. It is a much safer way to collect Whitby Jet and much kinder to the environment too. 

It is not as easy task to spot fragments as you first think. It takes a keen eye and an expert to bring back a good collection of Whitby Jet. Of course, those new to gem hunting can certainly find the much-loved stone yet it takes a bit of luck, dedication and persistence. The best spots are Whitby, Staithes and Runswick Bay. 




Authentic Whitby Jet


It can be difficult to spot the fakes as there are many lookalikes on the beach and in the industry. Amateurs could mistake coal for Whitby Jet as a lot of coal is found on the Northern coastline. Charcoal from beach barbecues is another common imitation. There are few easy ways to identity if it is actually Jet you’ve found or it is in fact a copycat. Find all the tips you’ll need here. Over the years, we have built very close relationships with experienced gem hunters ensuring that we only use genuine Whitby Jet sourced from our local beaches. 

Also, it’s worth noting that the finest Jet is found right here in Whitby. There are other black  stones that share the same name such as French Jet or Spanish Jet, which is where is gets quite confusing. However, these stones do not have the lustre that Whitby Jet is famous for and will crack and break over time. If you hold the two side by side you will notice the quality is considerably less. 


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