Jewellery Quarter – Past & Present

Jewellery Quarter Then and Now

A heritage to be proud of

The Jewellery Quarter dates back over 300 years……

17th Century
* Precious metals had been worked in the Birmingham area since 14th Century but the industry really prospered from 1660. King Charles II returned from exile in France after the Civil War and brought back a taste for fancy buttons and shoe buckles and journeyed to Birmingham where he knew they could be made.
As this fashion spread, metal workers and artisans turned out thousands of pieces in steel and later used silver and burnished gold, inlaid with coloured glass and gem stones. They also made trinket boxes called ‘Brummagem toys’ and jewellery.

18th Century
*Development in the Quarter was rapid starting in the St Paul’s area of the Quarter. Substantial houses were built for the manufacturers whilst the artisans lived in more modest terraces. As the expansion of trade continued,workshops sprang up in gardens and work benches were installed in the houses. Different skills and expertise made people in the area reliant on one another and the Jewellery Quarter was established.

The famous industrialist, Matthew Boulton, campaigned energetically for the establishment of Birmingham’s Assay Office in 1773 and now its Assay mark, the Anchor, is a world famous authentication of quality on precious metals.

19th Century
*Royal fashions continued to affect the fortunes of the Jewellery Quarter during the 19th Century. It also became famous for its pen nibs when Joseph Gillott perfected the technique of machine manufactured steel nibs. This contributed to the spread of literacy and writing to the working classes.

20th Century
*In the early 20th Century,the jewellery trade employed 30,000 people. Supporting trades occupied as many again. Throughout its history,it was quite a closed community with people living and working there. It wasn’t until later in the 20th Century that shops began to open to the general public.

21st Century
*Now a creative urban village with a population of 5,000 residents and over 1,500 businesses, the jewellery trade still plays a major role in the Quarter’s economy.

With the World’s busiest Assay Office,Europe’s largest School of Jewellery, the area still makes an estimated 40% of UK jewellery. However the trade now specialises in the quality end of the market with the manufacture of cutlery for the Cunard liners, FA and FIFA trophies and medals and regalia for royalty reflecting the area’s reputation. As a designated Conservation Area,it has over 200 nationally listed historical buildings that can be enjoyed,many restored to house restaurants and new creative businesses.