How to find Whitby Jet – A Jet Setters Guide.

Sarah Caldwell Steele searching for jet on the beach at Runswick Bay
A jet setters guide to jet collecting

Can you still find jet on the beach?

Yes, you can still find Whitby jet on the beach! If you like nothing better than vast expanses of golden, life-guard patrolled beaches, jet collecting might not be for you. If, however, you appreciate some of the finest geology that the British Isles has to offer, coupled with a potential sprained ankle, a million dogs, fancy coloured seaweeds and only your own thoughts for company, then perhaps you’ve discovered the perfect hobby. All you need to know is actually how to find Whitby jet on the beach.

Is Whitby jet still mined?

Whitby jet has not been legally mined since the end of the C19th. But why? I hear you cry. Well, I shall cover the trials and tribulations of jet mining on another occasion but all you need to know for now is, to keep you within the confines of the law, that you may only collect sea-washed jet in the Whitby area.

Can you legally collect Whitby jet?

It is perfectly legal to collect sea-washed jet from the beach. Sea-washed jet, as the name suggests refers to jet which has washed in by the sea. This sounds like the most idyllic, ethical, morally acceptable, vegan-friendly form of gem collecting on the planet. And quite rightly so because, if we follow these rules then the Whitby jet industry is certainly the world’s most ethical gem industry. All you need to know is actually how to find Whitby jet on the beach.

Is Whitby jet rare?

Only one problem, sea-washed Whitby jet is RARE. Have you seen how many jet shops there are in Whitby??? Competition is fierce, we all have our favourite hidden locations (I favour just to the left of the largest whale-stone, 11.68m NNE of Kettleness Ness) but assuming that you’d really like to find one piece yourself, which you will undoubtedly, bring hot from the beach, straight to The Ebor Jetworks to have your own custom piece created (I jest not) then where perhaps should one look and how do we know when we’ve found it?

On balance, I would suggest a trip to  Runswick Bay.

Jet collecting at Runswick Bay

How can I find Whitby Jet
Runswick Bay,

Firstly, Runswick boasts a café (seasonal), toilets (take your own Izal, water, soap and paper towel), plus a phone box (I can’t confirm this claim). Secondly, it is certainly one of the most picturesque villages on the North Yorkshire Coast. A myriad of tiny cottages cling desperately to the unstable Jurassic shales, separated by winding paths. Following a landslip in 1682 the whole village was rebuilt, but things seem to have been more settled since then, so I’m reasonably confident that the village is still there if you are planning to pay a visit soon.

Jet collecting is dangerous!

Runswick Bay is a reasonably safe locality to collect Whitby jet on the beach, there is a chance that if you do come a cropper on the slippery rocks that someone will notice you before you suffer a long and damp demised as the tide comes in over your immobile body. There is something however that you need to know about Runswick. The cliff down to the village is very, very high and steep. There is a car park at the bottom of the cliff, but only those who have ever attended the Louboutin sale at Harrods can appreciate the competition for a parking spot down there. Assuming you have risen with the lark and arrive at Runswick before dawn, you must mentally prepare yourself for the steepness of the road to the car park. A 1:2 I believe.

The hill at Runswick. How can I find Whitby Jet on the beach?
The descent into Runswick Bay

One of my earliest childhood memories is of my dear mother screaming to be let out of our Mark 1 Ford Escort at the top of the cliff than face certain death due to brake failure on the decent

How do I find Whitby Jet?
The car park At Runswick Bay


You can alternatively park in the adequate car park at the cliff top but bear in mind that you may require Sherpas to aid your accent after a day on the beach. Assuming you are parked at the bottom, you may be feeling rather smug. This will soon fade however if you have not consulted the tides prior to your arrival.

We need a low tide to collect jet

You see, the tide comes right in at Runswick. The tide in = no beach, no jet. Bummer. It’s best to arrive 2 hours before low tide. This way you can follow the tide out and be first on the scene to collect all the jet. Also, the jet doesn’t wash in next to the car park. Oh, no sirree. You need to walk to the area designated on the photo below.

How do I find Whitby Jet at Runswick Bay?
Where to find Whitby Jet at Runswick Bay

What to wear for Whitby jet collecting?

I should perhaps point out that it would be prudent to take suitable sturdy footwear and perhaps a gaberdine/southwester in case of a sea-threat blowing in. I’d never advocate the wearing of a long faux-fur coat. It will get wet and you will get angry. A fluorescent jacket will also aid His Majesty’s Coastguard in the event of an incident!

How do I find Whitby Jet?
Hours bent double
How do I find Whitby Jet?
Perils of jet collecting in a long fur coat

So how to find Whitby jet

Jet collecting you see requires the participant to walk many miles bent double. Once you make it past the beach huts and yacht club start looking for rotten sea-weed. Be prepared for the fact you may smell it before you see it. Whitby jet has a very similar specific gravity it seems to rotten sea-weed and therefore they do tend to wash in together. There are of course other nasty things that wash in with the tide. Perhaps you’d feel happier wearing Marigold gloves. At very least don’t rub your eyes, pick your nose or eat your sandwiches without using a hand sanitiser.

How do I find jet jet on the beach
Rotting seaweed, a jet collector’s best friend.

Is Whitby jet black?

Now, let’s cut to the chase, everything on the Whitby beaches is jet-black when it is wet. How, therefore will you decide what is jet, and what isn’t jet? Here follows a guide to the most common errors encountered by the lay jet collector;

How to tell coal from jet (barbeque variety)

Almost everybody has attended a barbeque. In Whitby we have beach-barbeques. Some charcoal gets left on the beach and this washes around in the sea. Eventually, it is collected by keen amateurs and brought into our shops in bagful’s hoping against hope that it is jet. Jet doesn’t look like wet charcoal. Wet charcoal looks like wet charcoal.

How do I find Whitby Jet?
This is wet charcoal. This is not jet…

Whitby jet is fossilised wood, we all know this. However, burnt wet wood also looks very black and quite like wood. This is because it is burnt, black wood. This is not jet. Dig your nail into it. Is it soft? Then it is not jet.

How do I find Whitby Jet?
Wet wood for sure…

How to tell sea-coal from jet

Sea-coal is real and it’s out there in huge quantities. Heavily weathered, rounded fuel-grade coals can look jet-like, especially when wet. When it dries, however, it is generally greyer in colour and as coal is not homogenous there are dull layers and sparkly layers. Jet is never sparkly and even when it is dry it is a uniform jet-black colour and smooth texture.

How to tell coal from jet
Sea coal

How to tell tar from Whitby jet

Tar looks identical to jet. This is because there are large amounts of bitumen in jet. Tar fools even the most hardened jet collector however, it is quickly identified if you pop it in your back pocket and use the seat-warmer in the car on the way home. Always best to check by digging a fingernail in prior to leaving the beach.

How to tell jet from tar

How to tell jet from plastic

Black plastic is the same density as Whitby jet so a broken, sea-weathered piece can look jet-like. If you find it, please pick it up and dispose of it appropriately.

How to tell plastic from jet
Plastic waste, take it home and recycle it, please!

How to tell jet from shale

After sea-coal, the most common material that people bring to the shop thinking that it is jet is shale. The cliffs are made from black mudstones or shale is it is commonly called. When wet it is black but, when dry it is grey, dull and quite fragile. It is also heavy like all stones.

Is jet a stone? Shale on Runswick Beach
It’s a stone I’m afraid…

Is Whitby jet a stone?

I wouldn’t suggest carrying a bag of shale up the cliff. General black stones are abundant on the beach. Stones are heavy, cold and hurt if you drop them on your foot. They may even be round and black. Jet is not a stone, so it has none of these properties.

How to find jet on the beach
Can you spot the Whitby jet?

What does Whitby jet look like?

Finally, how to find Whitby jet. Most pieces are tiny. The best quality pieces are usually pretty thin. The surface often shows a fossil bark texture which looks like parallel lines. It has a uniform smooth texture, is a uniform black colour (although shale may be attached to it which can look grey or rusty orange).

Jet specimens with bark
Examples of bark fossilised on Whitby jet

Whitby jet has a conchoidal fracture – what’s that?

The fracture is conchoidal like glass or toffee. Expect pieces to be small, and don’t tell me if you find a big piece! This is a conchoidal fracture. Well, two types of conchoidal fracture actually.

A classic conchoidal fracture in Whitby jet
A classic conchoidal fracture in Whitby jet

Whitby jet streak test, sometimes weirdly called a ‘smudge test’??

The secret weapon in the jet collector’s arsenal is wet n dry sandpaper. I recommend between a 800-1500 grit, the finer often the better. This will allow you to perform a streak test.

streak test or smudge test on jet
How to find Whitby jet using sandpaper to give a streak. The top is plastic or stone, second from the top is coal, third from the top is soft Whitby jet and the bottom streak is the best quality Whitby jet.

Whitby jet has a ginger or chocolate brown streak

Coal streaks black. Stone, shale and most plastic streaks white. Whitby jet in its best quality streaks cinnamon brown. Soft Whitby jet has a chocolate brown streak but beware some low-grade coals also have a dark brownish streak, especially at Bridlington or Cleethorpes. This is not Whitby jet, it is coal from Cleethorpes and that will be the subject of a future blog….

To learn more about Whitby jet read here What is Whitby Jet?

Can I find jet on the beach – In conclusion

Yes, you can find jet on the beach! Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to find Whitby jet on the beach, what it looks like and how to tell jet from coal, shale, plastic and the like. Let me know in the comments below if you have had success. Don’t forget, if you find the ‘mother lode’ we always pay the highest prices for rough Whitby jet at The Ebor Jetworks on Church Street, Whitby.


  1. This is wonderful, thank you; informative, well-written, and most of all, funny 🙂

  2. I started looking for jet about a year or so a ago, and have had average luck with my finds. I holiday in Whitby twice a year, at Easter and the end of October and have been doing so for many years. This year, given all the social distancing, etc, I thought it would be a perfect reason to spend more time on the beach out of the way of the potentially crowed and cramped streets of Whitby.

    To make my beach time worthwhile, I decided increase my chances of finding a good sized piece of jet, so I did what everyone does when they need and answer to something, I turned to the internet. I stumbled across this blog, which suggested a visit to Runswick Bay. This year (October) the tides and summer time (clocks changing) were against me. My trip to Runswick left me fairly disillusioned, I arrived at 13:30, approximately 1.5 hrs after high tide. I found plenty of sand, and very little seaweed, in fact a surprisingly very clean beach. There were not even a great deal of pebbles and stones washed up, and those that were, were very small and did not yield any jet finds. I made my way along the beach to the western edge of an area marked as Hill Stones on the OS 25K maps.

    So, I guess the question that I’m now left with is this – are there certain times that are better than others to go looking for jet? I’ve heard that stormy weather will result in a better chance of finding something (presumably because the wind helps to stir up the sea). While the weather might play a part, does the time of year? It seems odd that given the number of jet shops in Whitby, they could be sustained on something as unpredictable as the weather and specific times of the year.

    1. You are completely correct. Jet is rare and collecting it is not an exact science. Sometimes the seas are too rough, other times not rough enough to bring the jet in. It’s trial error and persistance at the end of the day!

  3. I wanted to say a huge thank you! I’ve had whitby and Robin hoods Bay on my bucket list for some time now. Prior to going this week, I stumbled across this blog that I found hugely useful. When In whitby today, I went in every Jet shop and fell in love with one particular- everything about it from the smell and atmosphere was just a magical. I got speaking to a very helpful, friendly man sitting at a jewellers bench. He was even kind enough to give me some sandpaper so I could try and find my own (for wire wrapping) imagine my delight when I left, to realise this enchanting little place was indeed Ebor Jet works!
    While at Robin hoods Bay, I went into a shop that sold pieces of Jet. I bought a small piece for £8 thinking at least I’d know I have some legit, if I don’t get lucky on the beach. I then remembered the kind gift of sandpaper in my bag and discovered a black streak- coal! I bought a lump of coal! I quietly told the seller and he was very apologetic. So thank you- not only did you teach this novice but a supposed expert too! I’m now going to treat myself to some beautiful jewellery in the future from the exquisite Ebor jetworks site! X

  4. Hi Sarah
    After visiting Whitby for the Regatta, I made visit to your wonderful Jet shop on Church Street.
    Unlike other jet shop’s in town, your business has a real Jet working feel Which is fantastic.
    It’s not Jet jellery mass produced, where its chosen from a padded card by a letter & a number then the same item is taken from under the counter.
    Yours are one off items skillfully made to the highest standards & quality at affordable and realistic prices.
    The information you have provided Regarding Jet is very informative
    and shows you have a passion & respect for 180 million year old fossilised wood.
    Whilst in the shop I spoke to the lad
    Who was working on that day, I think he may have been your son?
    He is a credit to you & your business as he was very polite & friendly.

    I just wanted to share my comments and would like to thank you.

    Kind regards

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