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Jewellery Quarter Birmingham

A visit to Birmingham wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the amazing Jewellery Quarter [map].

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 trades.

The thriving jewellery trade of the late 18th century centered in the Hockley area and this is where the Jewellery Quarter is located today.
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 the situation.

Visitors can still see the Mint in action today.

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