During the 19th Century the marble works at Ashford-in-the-Water, Derbyshire became a tourist attraction as demand soared following the outstanding success of Ashford Marble at the Great Exhibition in 1851. The Royal household exhibited three exceptional inlaid black marble tables made at the workshops of T. Woodruff, Bakewell – which it was said even rivalled the work of Italian Masters.
Following Prince Albert’s death in 1861, Queen Victoria went into mourning which resulted in the fashion and taste for black clothing and adornments. This popularised Whitby Jet Jewellery and Ashford Marble. However, Queen Victoria was long familiar with Ashford Marble.
Having stayed at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, with its marble interiors and massive marble doorways, this inspired a visit to the Ashford Marble Works in 1832, where a number of purchases were made. Even earlier than this, Bess of Hardwick used Ashford Marble for the chimney piece in the Great High Presence Chamber, when building Hardwick Hall in 1580.
After Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, the popularity and demand for black marble began to diminish and sadly, with the introduction of cheaper substitutes (painted designs on treated slate) the industry fell in to terminal decline, and closed in 1905.
Today Ashford Marble jewellery and ornaments are widely collected, with exquisite examples being highly sought after. The dramatic beauty of the polished black surface with decoratively inlaid designs, inspired by the Florentine pietra dura and Italianate mosaics of a time gone by.
Jewellery Specialist Sarah Clark
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