In the Netherlands (Enkhuizen) is an OpenAir Museum where you see restored and rebuilt houses and villages, originated from the small cities around the IJsselmeer or Southern Sea as it is called centuries ago. We visit this beautiful Southern Sea Museum a few times in the past. But this time we have a special encounter with an older lady, wearing black jet jewelry.
The lady washes clothes in a large laundry tube outside her ‘house’. She talks to another lady repairing clothes. I notice that both ladies wear beautiful black gemstone necklaces but the two necklaces differ. One necklace is made of garnets and has a beautiful silver clasp. And the other one is just as beautiful but lacks the luster.
Of course, I ask the ladies about those necklaces and at the end of the conversation, Black jet jewelry makes a lady ‘warm’ and beautiful, but how does this work? I like to pass this story to you!
Black jet mourning necklace with decorated silver clasp. 19th century The Netherlands
When do you wear black jet jewelry and when garnet jewelry?
First I want to explain that the custom I tell you about in this blog post, is about the Dutch traditional way of life. I am sure that in some other countries they have the same custom, but this is how it works in the Netherlands.
The lady washing the clothes is a widow and she has trouble getting things going. The other lady repairing the clothes is her daughter. When her father died her mother has to ‘go in mourning’. That means that she wears black clothes for at least a year (I mean all black, even the underwear) and when time passes by she can add other colors to her wardrobe. According to the custom she does not wear very expensive jewelry or no jewelry at all.
The washing lady has a beautiful garnet necklace, an expensive faceted garnet necklace with a silver clasp. She gives it to her daughter when her husband passes away because she is not allowed to wear it anymore. That is difficult because the garnet necklace is a wedding present from her husband. She starts wearing the inherited black jet jewelry of her mother.
What is a black jet anyway?
Black jet is black, very black or deep dark brown, and sometimes with sparkles of pyrite. Like amber, pearls, and coral the black jet is an organic gemstone. Actually, it is wood, a fossil wood of 180 million years old. The wood comes from the Araucariaceae-family and due to the pressure during times is becomes jet. But the fossilization is not completed so the wood structure is visible under a microscope. And if we wait a few million years more it is coal.
In the fossilization process, the carbon is pressed out. When that happens in saltwater it is rather hard and called ‘jet’. People call this great stone a gemstone because of its beauty. You can do nothing else with this gemstone then carve it and make beautiful black jet jewelry of it.
Jet burns when you throw it in the fire. That is your proof that it is a real jet, but doing that your proof is damaged and gone forever. You ruin black jet too when you clean it with water!
You find black jet in Poland, Germany, France, Spain, Russia, the USA, and India. But the most famous mine is in Whitby/United Kingdom. Definitely, there is no jet mine in the Netherlands, so the black jet jewelry of the lady in mourning comes to the Southern Sea area by trade. Or… when you are lucky you find it on a Dutch beach, flowed there from England.
Black jet hair comb, 19th century Schoonhoven, the Netherlands
Why is black jet jewelry considered mourning jewelry?
The easiest answer to that question is that jet is black, the color of mourning. It is rather cheap for a widow to come by (that is in those days). And it has no luster, so suitable for a grieving lady.
But here is more to it.
People believe that a jet is capable to tear all negative energy and energy that does not belong to you, out of your body. For that: it filters all negative thoughts, feelings, and memories out of your mind. And helps to let all the negativity go and to get the strength to go on with your life.
For these features, a jet is an excellent gem to make black jet jewelry or mourning jewelry. But also rosaries of a black jet are popular. You recognize the real jet when you rub a jet (like amber) on a piece of woolen cloth. It sticks to a piece of paper after rubbing a few moments.
Black jet jewelry set. 19th Century Schoonhoven, the Netherlands
Black jet is popular during ages and ages.
Black jet is very trending at the end of the 19th century. Since the gem is rather rare there is not enough black jet to meet the demand. So people use black glass as a replacement. This glass is also called ‘French Jet’ and even after rubbing fiercely is stays cold, not as a black jet that becomes warm.
In the Stone Age (around 3000 BC) people love black jets and they make black jets jewelry of the material they find, like pendants or beads that archeologists find in the Dutch hunebeds (stone grave tombs from the Stone Age). Most of this jet comes from the Whitby mine in England.
Not only the Vikings love black jet, but also the Romans. And since the Middle Ages, women use black jets as mourning jewelry and for making rosaries. In Santiago de Compostela, a famous Spanish pilgrimage site they process a lot of black jets in those days.
Black jet jewelry in the Victorian Age
In 1861 Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria dies at the age of 42 years old. Queen Victoria is devastated and decides to wear from that day on only black clothing and jewelry, mostly black jet from Whitby. And the only option for the nobility and high classes in England is to follow her example.
Black jet jewelry in the Roaring Twenties.
In the 1920s long bead necklaces, mostly made of a black jet are popular among young women. Black jet is light and without any problem, you can wear multiple strand necklaces from your neck until below your waist. Also, they decorate clothing, hats, and shawls with a black jet in those days.
Black jet is too beautiful to wear only in mourning time
Black jet gemstones are beautiful, nicely carved, lightweight, warm when you touch them, natural material, and eco-friendly. What do you want more? It becomes a tradition to wear black jet jewelry only when you are in mourning around the 17th century, but actually black jet is way too beautiful to wear only in these difficult times. Although it brings comfort and sends away negative thoughts I’ll bet you can use that at other times too.
Black jet mourning necklace with decorated silver clasp. 19th century Noordwijk The Netherlands
Hopefully, you like the information in this blog post. I write about jewelry and gemstones and try to send my love about them over to you. When you want to hear about jewelry and gemstones on a regular basis ask for my free ‘FlorenceJewelshop Secrets’. You find there also the announcement of new blog posts and now and then a great offer. Let me know where to send it to:
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