James Shore of Matlock Bath, Derbyshire was perhaps the greatest maker of Blue John vases & urns. It is believed he was active from the latter part of the 18th Century through to the early part of the 19th Century. Very little is known about him on the personal side, however, history has noted his pieces were some the finest Blue John works ever produced. A feature of all his exquisite masterpieces are the additional incision lines around the main body joints & the matched dramatic figuration of the Blue John Stone he used in his creations. It would appear that he had access to the finest Blue John mined & produced his creations for aristocratic & noble families.
Blue John stone is a semi-precious mineral or fluorspar recognised by its beautiful radiating crystalline structure, which can only be mined at a site near the village of Castleton in Derbyshire. Its whereabouts were probably known from as early as 1700 through the discovery of various deposits, however, mining did not start until 1760 thereabouts, when local lapidaries probably began to make ornaments from it such as obelisks and decorative vases. The name ”Blue John” comes from the French ”bleu-jeune” or blue yellow. The deposits are not found as a single mass, rather in veins each with its own unique banding and colour, from beautiful shades of purple and blue through to creamy yellows and white. Although there are in fact many variants of each, historically grouped into fifteen named veins, with names such as Millers Vein, Treak Cliff Blue Vein, Bull Beef Vein, Winnats One Vein, Old Dining Room Vein, New Cavern Vein, New Dining Room Vein, Winnats 5 Vein, 12 Vein, Odin Vein, Old Tor Vein & the last found being Ridley Vein.
One of its first recorded uses for decorative purposes must be the borders of a chimney-piece supplied to Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Baron Scarsdale in around 1761 for Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire under the supervision of Robert Adam. In the 1770s, Matthew Boulton also championed the natural beauty of the fluorspar, using it frequently in his wonderful vases and perfume-burners, often further enriched and embellished with ormolu mounts. Some of finest designed pieces were by Sir William Chambers, architect to George III, most of which still reside in the Royal Collection. Its use was further promoted throughout the 19th century by William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire and his son William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire, where many of their Blue-John objects can be seen in the collections at Chatsworth.
Image : Regency History