A visit to Birmingham
wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the amazing Jewellery
Not only is this 200-year-old quarter of Birmingham a great place
to get the most beautiful diamonds and other precious stones.
In recent times recognition has grown for the Jewellery Quarter’s
grand traditions, history, architecture and environmental beauty.
Since the 1980s major restoration and conservation work has been
carried out, making the area a prime attraction for visitors from
all over the world.
For more than 200 years Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter has
been the home of some of the world's most highly skilled goldsmiths
and jewellery makers. At the height of industry success more than
60,000 people were employed in the precious metal and associated
The thriving jewellery trade of the late 18th century centered in
the Hockley area and this is where the Jewellery Quarter is located
Tradesmen worked from home, or in small workshops. Many of these
specialist crafts and services complimented each other, strengthening
the sense of community in the area and fostering an international
respect for the industry in the area.
By 1861 more than 7,000 people were engaged in the jewellery trade.
The local jewellery industry grew out of the area's toy trade. At
that time the toy trade included the manufacture of a wide range
of small items made from steel, such as buttons, buckles and brooches
and various trinkets. The 19th century saw a shift towards the manufacture
of jewellery and buttons in the area.
As trade flourished, so the area developed with new streets, large
residential properties built for manufacturers and the well off,
plus more and more terraces from which many of the tradesmen worked
and lived in.
Less than 100 years ago up to 20,000 people were employed in the
industry. Since the post-war recession of the 1940s and 1950s employment
levels have fallen and stand at around 4,000 currently.
For two centuries the Jewellery Quarter existed as a trade and
manufacturing area. The advent of shops opening to the public
is a recent phenomenon, with the majority of retail outlets springing
up since the 1970s. And now the area is widely known as a place
for both the trade and public to browse and buy the finest jewellery
products at the keenest prices.
Close to the Quarter you’ll find the Birmingham Mint [map]
that has its own fascinating history.
In 1786 Matthew Boulton - one of the key figures of the Industrial
Revolution - set up the original Birmingham Mint at his manufacturing
works in Soho, Birmingham. This was no ordinary coinage mint, Boulton’s
operation was the first to use steam-powered presses. Up until then,
coin presses had been hand-operated.
This new technology was a result of Boulton’s close working
partnership with the legendary James Watt, whose refinements to
the Newcomen steam engine drove the industrial world forward rapidly.
The need for Boulton and Watt to develop this was driven by the
fact that the Royal Mint had found itself unable to meet the demand
for bronze coinage in the mid-1700s. Boulton was charged with the
important task of producing quantities of copper coinage to rectify
Visitors can still see the Mint in action today.