From the moment you walk into the museum, you are met with the largest single collection of Whitby Jet specimens and artefacts in the world, both on permanent display and in our changing exhibitions. The museum is owned by W. Hamond The Original Whitby Jet Shop, Est. 1860, located at the bottom of Whitby’s famous 199 steps.
The reason the museum came into being was because of a huge collection of historically important and one of a kind pieces which were kept safely locked away in drawers and cupboards. Safe they may have been, but at the cost of never being seen or appreciated by the public, so when just the right building came available, just down the road from W. Hamond, the team set to work, restoring the old Methodist Chapel to create a place of education, learning and awe.
The museum’s rough specimen collection contains dozens of interesting samples of the Whitby jet gemstone in its natural and unworked form.
As well as demonstrating some of the more unusual bark textures seen in jet, there are also detailed explanation’s with samples of how the gemstone can form, as well as some natural mineral deposits seen on jet and those that can form alongside it, including pyrite and quartz. Perhaps the most fascinating examples in the collection are those that contain the impressions of fossils and lifeforms that were existing side by side with the jet rock formation one hundred and eighty million years ago. The Museum of Whitby Jet has the best collection of rough specimens with varied fossil impressions in the world, including Ammonites, Bivalve Pseudomytiloides and Trigonia Costata. Famously, the museum is also home to the largest piece of Whitby jet in the world, an incredible 21ft long specimen of jewellery quality, hard jet gemstone, formed from an entire Araucaria tree trunk.
This part of the museum is an excellent resource for those engaging in the study of geology, gemmology and palaeontology.
Not forgetting jet's role as an important influence in the development of history and culture, the Museum of Whitby Jet offers a host of information covering its use in jewellery and body adornments from ancient history to Medieval times, supported by a collection of original and reproduction examples which help define the styles, design and context of how Whitby jet and some foreign jets have influenced the history of jewellery.
Many museums will display beautiful collections of jewellery; at the Museum of Whitby Jet you can also learn about the manufacturing methods and day to day lives of Whitby’s jet workers, from the uniforms they wore to details on pay and the apprenticeships they served. Also, see some of the traditional tools used at the craftsmen’s bench and the secrets of how the pieces were designed and constructed.
For anyone with an interest in antique jewellery this section of the museum is vital for an understanding of how to identify early examples of jet jewellery from that of the later Victorian period.
Detailed explanations are also given into the rare trademarks which can be found on certain pieces.
Whitby Jet Souvenirs
The Victorians invented the idea of an annual holiday, usually spent by the seaside to escape the smoggy towns and cities and take in the sea air. They also loved to take a souvenir back with them, either as a gift for a friend or loved one, or a momento for themselves. The Whitby Jet industry specialised in the manufacture of souvenir items which were designed and made to suit every pocket.
Housed within the Museum of Whitby Jet is one of the most comprehensive collections of souvenirs, of all manor and purpose crafted out of the Whitby Jet gemstone; from miniature furniture to inkwells to smoking pipes, this collection is a feast for the eyes and a delight to behold.
Historic Whitby Jet Jewellery
Whitby Jet may be best known for being worn during periods of mourning, however jet was also a stylish gem material worn by ladies of high fashion, and also given as tokens of love and affection. Our displays at the Museum of Whitby Jet aim to put this point across and tell the full story of jet’s rise to fashion dominance, with some of the finest examples of jet jewellery from the 19th century on display. These include some very rare matching sets as well as jet with other forms of decoration popular during the Victorian era, and our collection of fine beaded necklaces and chains, so intricate in their design and craftsmanship.
The World’s Largest Whitby Jet Specimen
This is the crowning glory of the Museum of Whitby Jet. A 21ft long specimen of rough Whitby Jet, packed with a variety of fossil species and exhibiting all the different textures and forms of the Araucaria tree. This one of a kind specimen, which the British Museum once tried to purchase, is of significant geological importance and will undoubtedly be the highlight of your museum visit.