In 1861, both Queen Victoria's mother and her husband Albert, died. The Queen became obsessed with her mourning and it generated the popular fashion during the rest of her life. As a result, black jewelry and clothes became fashionable. Mined in Whitby, England, jet is an opaque black fossil of woo or hard coal which had been known of since ancient times. Early in the 19th century, jet jewelry sales were slow. However, by the 1870's, the industry had skyrocketed. Worskhops were scattered throught Whitby and fashion magazines and catalogs were promoting the sale of jet jewelry and hair ornaments. These Jet items became a very important industry due to the length of time That Victoria mourned her Albert.
Jet was a very soft substance which enabled the craftsman to carve and engrave without much difficulty. It also takes a high polish. Not all jet was polished, some of it was made with a dull matte finish. Jet is very light in weight and massive pieces of jewelry were fashioned from this material. In the United States, too, at the time of the Civil War, people commemorated the deaths of their loved ones by wearing black jewelry. By the 1880's, new material were being used in place of jet.