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September 11, 2005

Jacqueline Cullen and Whitby jet

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Jewelry designer Jacqueline Cullen works in Whitby jet.

Whitby jet is 180–million–year–old fossilized wood which has formed into lignite coal, and is an extremely rare material.

It reached its apotheosis as an element of jewelry in the Victorian era.

Edwina Ings–Chambers, in her story in this weekend's Financial Times, quoted Cullen who said, "When Queen Victoria went into mourning for Albert she started wearing Whitby jewellery as part of her mourning attire and kick–started the trend; everyone went crazy for it. That lasted for 60 or 70 years. But when fashions changed the craftspeople didn't change their designs and their traditional motifs [such as flowers, faces, and sentimental motifs normally carved in relief] fell out of fashion. It would have been an amazing material for art deco times but no one moved it forward."

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Cullen's taken this material and brought it into the 21st century (above and below).

She told Ms. Ings–Chambers that she believes she is "the only person to be working with Whitby jet in a contemporary way."

Whitby jet was mined in Victorian times but now is obtained from natural exposure by the tides and the sea, or rockfalls.

Cullen said, "It... looks very beautiful, like black glass that's very, very shiny, but unlike glass it's warm to the touch. And it's also very lightweight so I can make quite large–scale jewellery without worrying about it being too heavy."

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Cullen's website has more about this material and further examples of her work.

[via Edwina Ings–Chambers and the Financial Times]

September 11, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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