Drawing on History

Jet Jewellery

Jet is a lightweight material of fossilised wood from a tree, similar to the Araucaria or Monkey Puzzle tree, which grew 180 million years ago.  Jet objects have been found in Bronze Age barrows across Yorkshire, its perceived magical qualities meant it was used for many thousands of years. The static electricity produced when rubbed must have been a magical experience for Bronze Age peoples.


The properties of jet make it a relatively easy material to work with, it is easy to carve and can be polished to a high shine. Buttons, beads, rings, bracelets and necklaces have all been found, some artefacts indicating a high degree of skill.


This necklace was found in Middleton on the Wolds, East Yorkshire, the intricacy of design denotes wealth and status. It has been re-strung with modern wooden spacer beads and dates from 2500 - 600 BC. A series of dots have been indented into the jet to create a uniform pattern. The button was found in a manís grave and would have been used to fasten clothing.


The use of materials initially in a purely functional manner soon allowed manís natural creativity to flourish; the decoration of worn objects is an intrinsic part of our culture. 


  • How would you use jet to appeal to a contemporary market? 

  • Design a necklace of component parts. You can use another material in conjunction with the jet.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Hull and East Riding Museum | 
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