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An Impressive Victorian Whitby Jet Locket


Circa 1870's, a beautifully glossy large English Whitby Jet locket with a star faceted front and smooth ovalled back, complete with a lovely matching faceted bale. Superb quality, this wonderful piece of English jewellery holds a place in the history and culture of the 19th century. Worn as a mourning piece, as was common in the latter Victorian era, a jewel such as this would have offered a poignant comfort to the bereaved and shewn respect to the lost loved one. 

Opening to contain the two original images; one scarce and exquisitely detailed photograph on glass of a most captivating woman which is dedicated in pencil to the reverse 'Mrs Tunny B 1842 - D 1877'. 

After some research we have been able to identify her as Margaret Wilson Tunny, born 28th July 1841 who died 25th June 1877 (aged only 35). She was the third wife of James G Tunny, an Edinburgh photographer and died leaving five daughters. 

In 'Notes from the North';

Announcement of the death of Mrs Tunny

"There are many, both at home and abroad, who will hear with deep regret of the death of Mrs Tunny of Edinburgh, which occurred on the 25th inst.  

She was a 'helpmeet' to Mr Tunny in the true sense of the term, an enthusiastic love of the art, and on of the most artistic photographers that ever laid paper on a negative..

Mrs Tunny possessed a refined and cultivated taste, and a thorough knowledge of the requirements of photography - a lasting memorial of which may be seen in the recently erected establishment in Maitland Street, which is one of the most elegant and perfect in the country, and which we hope we are committing no breach of confidence in saying was principally the work of the deceased lady.

Mrs Tunny, while ever diligent in business, displayed at all times an open-handed friendship, and gave a hearty welcome to all connected with the art.  She never seemed so happy as when exercising a genuine hospitality to the numerous strangers who came 'within her gates'."

Mr Tunny had a reputation for being a staunch radical, aligned to Edinburgh’s Advanced Liberals, committed to bringing about social reforms for the working class. 

The back of some of J G Tunny & Co's cartes de visite advertise: 'Indestructible Vitrified Enamels'. We feel that this fine early photograph may be an example of this technique. 

The locket itself measures 4.5 by 3.5cm and is in very lovely condition, having been cared for down the two generations since. We would love to find it a suitable new home. 

Read our BLOG article about Whitby Jet. 

Read about the Tunny family here.