A GEMOLOGIST from the world's best known jet producing stretch of coast is searching for the holy grail of tests so people can easily determine the real thing from fakes.

Jewellers in Whitby in Victorian times were desperate to find an easy and foolproof way to tell the genuine article so they could ensure their jet preserved its place in the industry. Because it became so popular then there were many cheap imports which just couldn't compete on quality.

The town's jet is renowned for being more stable than others and polishes to a mirror shine, but fakes, even ordinary coal, were numerous and can be mistaken by the untrained eye.

Now local gemologist Sarah Caldwell Steele. who is also a jeweller at Whitby's Ebor Jetworks has set herself the task of creating a test.

She is studying for a PHD in archeology at Durham university and is working with reserachers at Yale university to come up with a distinguishing test.

Sarah said: "It is the Holy Grail to find a test for these materials. Our jet is completely stable and has been for 5,000 years, some of these others, from Russia or elsewhere they dry out and crack, this is why we are so keen to find a relatively easy test."

Whitby jet which is effectively fossilised monkey puzzle tree from 180 million years ago was first used in the Neolithic era around 5,500 years ago.

It became ever more popular in the 1830's for mourning, particularly following the death of George 1V and throughout the Victorian era it's popularity soared thanks to the Queen.

During it's heyday there were around 200 workshops in the town and around half of Whitby was employed in them according to the census of 1860.

It is highly prized because the jet is only found on a seven and a half mile stretch of the east coast from Whitby. At its most popular it was in such demand mines were dug inland to try and get to slim seems of it and it was hacked out of the cliffsides.

Now it's a popular pass time for visitors to spend hours on the coast searching for it. Local jewellers are renowned for their knowledge and expertise in being able to tell the difference between the real and the fake.

"Whilst I am working to try and create this test in the meantime there is one full proof way of making sure you get real Whitby jet, come to our experts in the town, we know the difference."