These hand brooches carved in Whitby Jet are extremely rare. The fragile nature of the gemstone means that the delicate fingers were very susceptible to breakage. As an alternative, hands were nearly always moulded or pressed in simulants such as vulcanite or dyed horn (second picture).
The theme of hands in jewellery dates as far back as the Roman era. In Georgian and Victorian jewellery, hands became increasingly popular due to their sentimental connotations of friendship and love; the shaking of hands in greeting, holding hands in affection, or asking for someones hand in marriage. Hands wonderfully displayed expressions of affection communicated through the subtle form of jewellery design.