Victorian Refinement - XII

Victorian English Carved Whitby Jet Cufflinks (LEO Design)

Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901—an era well-represented in our collection of handsome cufflinks.  For the rest of the month, we'll be sharing some of these Victorian cufflinks offerings, many of them recently acquired.  Click here to see all of the cufflinks at LEO Design. 

Jet is the petrified remains of Jurassic period pine trees—buried in oxygen-free bogs and tightly-compressed for millions of years.  Actually, jet is a type of coal and it will burn if placed in a fire.  When touched with a red-hot needle, jet will emit the smell of burning coal (which it is).  While it is considered a gemstone, it is not a mineral (for there are no crystals in it).  Instead, it is classified as a mineraloid.  

The oldest discovered jet objets are small amulets, carved circa 10,000 BC and excavated in Germany between the World Wars.

Though jet can be found around the world, "Whitby Jet," from Whitby, England, is perhaps the oldest and most famous deposit (at 181 million years old).  The popularity of jet in England (as a decorative object) has had three distinct peaks.  First, it was used to make necklace beads in the Stone Age (4000 - 2500 BC).  It was later revived during Britain's Roman Period (43 - 410 AD).  In the Nineteenth Century, after Prince Albert died, Queen Victoria popularized black "Mourning Jewelry" made of jet.  In 1870, black jet jewelry hit its peak of popularity.   Its lightness, shine and "carvability" made it the ideal material for big, mournful jewelry.  As the Nineteenth Century came to an end (and Victoria died in 1901), the popularity of jet was replaced by the new Art Nouveau jewelry which did not use many black gemstones.

The Victorian English cufflinks, shown above, are made of carved Whitby jet.  They were made in the 1890's, in the tradition of contemporary mourning jewelry.  Click on the photo above to learn more about them.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248