The Jewellery quarter was established in the 18th century, springing out behind St Paul’s Square (my ‘hood) and lead by one of the city’s founding fathers grew until Birmingham had its own Assay office. Originally in the main city centre street, New Street, it moved to where it is now on Newhall St, much closer to all the manufacturers.
I learn that the manufacturers have to be close together as each plays a small part in creating a single piece of work.
The family homes had workhouses built behind them, in what would be the garden so they can live and work there. These were real family businesses as there is a lot of trust involved when working with precious metals and stones.
The pens became popular in the 19th century when Joseph Gillott (Is that why we have Gillott Road in Edgbaston?) perfected the technique of machine-manufactured steel nibs. I find out that previously pens cost the equivalent of two days wages but this technique meant the spread of literacy and writing to the working classes.
Apart from making over 40% of all UK jewellery involving 300 businesses, the JQT as we affectionately call it also produces whistles (not just the ones on the original Titanic), pens, all sorts of silver giftware and the trophies, including the one for the women’s Wimbledon winner. The premiership trophy was designed in Birmingham but alas not made here.
What I haven’t noticed before whilst dashing through the JQT to get to Lord Clifdens are the spectacular Prince of Wales Gates. A beautiful piece of art, they are the gateway to the Jewellery Business Centre. I read they were once owned by the Prince of Wales and ‘sculpted’ by Michael Johnson to represent the contemporary jeweller’s art.