Black was very popular in Victorian times especially as part of the cult of mourning which followed the death of Prince Albert. Heres a quick tour of Victorian Mourning Black

In those days the Queen set the fashions of the day and when her husband died in 1861 she went into deep mourning for him. This mourning extended to her wearing all black clothing and until her death in 1901. The rest of the British Empire followed fashion – wearing only black (sometimes for years) following the death of a loved one.

Victorian Mourning Black

This led to some interesting materials being used in Victorian Mourning Black, many of which we don’t see today. Here are some of the more popular

antique jet broochesWhitby Jet

This comes from Whitby on the North East coast of England. It is often simply referred to as jet. A natural material which has been formed over millions of years from coal. This is the finest of the forms of jet and was greatly sought after. Whitby jet was carved and shaped into most forms of Victorian Jewelry.

Whitby jet is: Lightweight & can be highly polished or left matt. It has a subtle coal smell when you rub it hard and leaves a brown coloured trace if you rub it lightly on a rough surface ( please be very careful not to do this with precious antique





French Jet Victorian Guard Chain1French Jet

is a term used for highly polished black Glass. Often it is a really deep purple colour which is so dense in colour it appears black. It was cheaper and easier to produce than Whitby Jet.

You can tell French Jet from Whitby jet by considering the following: French jet is heavier & colder to the touch. It will not leave a colour trace when rubbed on a rough surface ( be careful though it will scratch).






Victorian Black Horsehoe BroochVulcanite

was used to mass produce lightweight items usually jewellery. It is made from hardened rubber and the design was moulded into it. This process allowed for the design to be far more detailed than was possible with hand-carved jet. It was originally aimed at the budget end of the market but is highly sought after today.

Like Jet Vulcanite can leave a brownish mark on a rough surface, however, there is another way of telling the difference between the two materials:

– Vulcanite smells rubbery wwhereasJet smells of coal

– Vulcanite has moulded detail, jet is hand carved