Female bishop wears blue john

The consecration of Reverend Libby Lane at York Minster.
The consecration of Reverend Libby Lane at York Minster.
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When history was made and the first female Church of England bishop Libby Lane was ordained a week ago, a little piece of Blue John from her native Peak District was close at hand.

The Right Reverend Lane, aged 48, was made Bishop of Stockport at York Minster wearing ceremonial robes and a striking episcopal ring fashioned from the rare blue gemstone found only in Castleton.

In the congregation for the historic occasion was the Derbyshire jeweller who had hand-crafted it for her.

“We were contacted just before Christmas by Libby’s husband, the Rev.George Lane, to design and make The Bishop’s Ring,” says Anthony Darwent, of ASD Jewellers in Castleton.

“I didn’t think much about it at the time. It later dawned on me it was actually a really important thing - I was making a ring that was marking history.”

Anthony discovered Libby had chosen ASD for its specialist work with Blue John stone.

She grew up in Glossop in the High Peak, loved trips to Castleton and had always admired the semi-precious stone formed millions of years ago from oils trapped under intense high pressure and heat in calcium fluoride.

“She wanted a piece of Derbyshire set in the ring that would mark her consecration as a bishop,” said Bamford-born Anthony, who opened his shop more than 40 years ago after stumbling into his life’s work as a boy.

He became a weekend guide in the caverns and polished Blue John Stone during the quieter winter months, then was offered a full time job at 16 with a Castleton cottage industry cutting and polishing Blue John, setting up in business at 24.

“When Libby visited the shop I had already cut a number of pieces for her to view. The stone varies so much in colour a selection was essential and after much deliberation a piece of deep banded purple was chosen.

“It was cut from a rough natural piece I had bought from a private collection in 2013,” said Anthony.

“I was extended plenty of artistic license in the design, but Libby wanted the ring to be more feminine than the usual bulbous heavy style associated with sacred rings, and to be made in silver rather than traditional yellow gold.

“The biblical aspect of the design was a simple cross overlaid around the whole shank of ring to form another cross on the other side.”