The Jewellery Quarter Birmingham: A history

Providing a somewhat unique name to an area of Birmingham, The Jewellery Quarter perfectly sums up the manufacturing base from which the city expanded.

Even today, The Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham is home to some of the most highly-skilled jewellery makers and goldsmiths around, with it being a designated conservation area that contains well over 200 listed buildings. The area has been described by English Heritage as a ‘national treasure’ and having ‘structures associated with jewellery and metalworking that doesn’t seem to exist elsewhere in the world’.

The history of The Jewellery Quarter

The Industrial Revolution had a major effect on Birmingham, during the 18th and 19th Centuries the city became notable for its manufacture of metal everyday items. With the Industrial Revolution providing a new era of metalworking and mass-producing technology, the creation of these items became much easier and the number of workers with the skills to produce finely-honed pieces grew as quickly as the city’s population.

Like metalworking and other industries (especially coal production in the nearby West Midlands area that became known as ‘The Black Country’), the ability to mine precious stones also became much easier. As a result, the price of jewellery items became affordable for the vast majority of the population – something which a couple of metalworking streets in Birmingham took full advantage of.

With the ability to acquire precious stones for an affordable price, and the tools and skills needed to combine them with metals, a jewellery trade developed in and around the areas of Vyse Street and Warstone Lane in Hockley. Although wealthy factory owners eventually took charge of the bulk of the production, it wasn’t uncommon for people to literally turn their homes into factories and produce jewellery items themselves.

The growth of Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter

With the demand for jewellery ever growing as time moved from the 19th to the early 20th century, metalworking became one of the city’s main employment areas as the shops and factories expanded beyond two streets. Before long, the name ‘Hockley’ became interchangeable with ‘The Jewellery Quarter’, as the whole industry was centred upon it.

Like so many industries, during the mid 20th–Century production declined. Despite this decline, the reputation and quality of work produced by Birmingham’s jewellery makers remains today. In fact, 40% of UK jewellery production is still undertaken by businesses in the Quarter.  In addition to this continued success, the area is also home to the largest Assay Office (designed to test the purity of metals) in the world and the Birmingham School of Jewellery; the largest of its kind in Europe.

Although the name may suggest that the primary residents of the Jewellery Quarter are jewellers, the area is notable for the production of a wide range of other metal-based items. Some of the most famous items created in the area include:

  • The whistles used by staff onboard the RMS Titanic.
  • The original FA Cup – the oldest football competition in the world – was manufactured in the Quarter in 1871. Ironically, the trophy was stolen from a Birmingham shop in 1895 after it was won by local side Aston Villa and displayed in the window. It was never recovered.
  • The coffins of Sir Winston Churchill and Princess Diana were made in the Quarter, by the Newham Brothers.
  • Thanks to its creation of pen nibs, Birmingham became world famous for its pen trade in the 19th

Although Hockley is the area that the name of The Jewellery Quarter was historically bestowed upon, the city council’s implementation of the Jewellery Quarter Improvement District has extended the area far beyond its original boundaries. With new ambitions of attracting business back to the now-300 acre site, the famous historical Quarter is set for a big future.

S.P. Green - Jewellery Quarter jewellers based on the historical Warstone Lane

Here at S.P Green, we are proud to be part of the rich history and tradition of the Jewellery Quarter. We are a family-run business that has spent over 40 years creating bespoke jewellery items such as engagement and wedding rings, earrings and pendants in Birmingham. We work from three stores based on the historic Warstone Lane, which has retained its classic Victorian and Edwardian look.

If you’re interested in visiting the Quarter, then there is plenty to see and do. Aside from the countless number of jewellery shops, the area is home to many other businesses, including clothing retailers, hairdressers and restaurants. From where we’re based, as Warstone Lane meets Vyse Street, you will see the prominent landmark of the area – The Chamberlain Clock. Erected in 1903, the clock was named in honour of the former city Mayor, Joseph Chamberlain who at the time of the clock’s creation, was touring South Africa at the end of Second Boer War. Chamberlain had been a big supporter of the local industry – his campaign to abolish a plate duty tax had helped the jewellery tradesmen to run their businesses more cost-effectively.

Visiting The Jewellery Quarter

Situated just a stone’s throw from the city centre, The Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham has become a must-see for many people visiting the city. With its own train station just a couple of minutes away from the city’s mainline stations and countless bus services, the Quarter is well-served for visitors and locals alike. If you would like to know more about S.P. Green, head to our About Us page.

S.P. Green - Bath jewellers, Green Street

S.P. Green brings their Jewellery Quarter expertise and heritage to the City of Bath. In addition to our three Birmingham showrooms we have a brand new jewellery showroom in Bath offering high quality jewellery manufacturing at competitive prices

So whether you are in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter or Bath, why not pop into one of our showrooms? Our expert gemmologists will be on hand to offer advice on any aspect of jewellery making that you may be interested in.