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JQ History

Jewellery Quarter is one of the most historic areas in the country, has easy access to abundant faciliites and renowned manufacturers, and who has a traditional and welcoming shop where you can come to view your jewellery before making that final purchase. It was 1553 that Birmingham welcomed its first recorded goldsmith: Roger Pemberton. During the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th century Birmingham prospered by manufacturing a range of articles in various metals.

After the completion of the Birmingham canals in 1769 various roads such as Warstone (the very place where Aspire is proudly located) were improved. This meant that the Jewellery Quarter became easy accesible to other areas such as Dudley and Wolverhampton. WIth the completion of this work a large amount of the residents moved out of the area allowing new factories to be built for silversmiths and goldsmiths. Newhall Street was also extended to meet with the canals which meant distribution from the area improved greatly.

In 1773, with the help of Matthew Boulton, The Birmngham Assay Office was built and opened improving manufacturing foothold in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter area. The main type of jewellery being made at this time were keys, seal and watch chains. All of which were taken to various locations across England via the canal system.

One of the most recognised landmarks in the Birmingham Jewelley Quarter area is St.Paul's Church and courtyard which was completed in 1779. It is still a beautiful part of the city today and is surrounded by a number of coffee shops, bars and restaurants - definitely worth a visit while you are in the area. In 1780 the Birmingham Directory listed 26 jewellers however due to the definition not being defined in this it is unsure as to what the prodominant type of work done by these jewellers was.

In the 1820's the number of Jewellers in the area decreased significantly due to economic problem's with alot of the bigger companies making staff redundant. With the next 10 year's effected greatly by this it was then that in the mid 1830's that this area first became described as 'the quarter'.

In 1825 the Birmingham and Staffordshire gas company was established meaning that all jewellers had access to piped gas assisting them when making various items of jewellery.

By 1840 every jeweller was now supplied with fully piped gas in the Birmingham area. The jewellery quarter continued to grow strong and in 1845 a party of representatives from Birmingham were sent to Buckingham palace to try and persuade Queen Victoria to wear British made jewellery with the purpose of promoting it. They present the royal couple with an armlet, a brooch, a pair of ear-rings, a waist buckle, a watch chain, a seal and key, at the time valued at 400 guineas. These were manufactured in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter by Thomas Aston and Mr.Baleny. At the time they reported that over 5,000 familes were dependant on the jewellery trade in Birmingham.

In 1846 Vyse Street was constructed. While this was done planning was made to ensure that the maximum amount of building plots would be avaliable. As the quality of jewellery being manufactured in the Jewellery quarter improved Birmingham started to surpass other parts of england so much so that it was believed that by the 1850's half of London's gold and silverware products were produced in Birmingham. In this time the Jewellery Quarter was also responsible for making a large amount of the British Empires Jewellery. By this time the jewellery trade was considered the most lucrative in the city with jewellers being some of the best paid workers in the city. Younger boy's hoping to get into the trade were started on apprenticeships at the age of 14. It was later on that the Birmingham School of Art was established where some jewellers expected there apprentice's to attend.

By 1861 it was reported that there were 7,500 people employed in the jewellery quarter and by 1880 there were 700 workshops listed in the local directory. New technology's also benefited the jewellery trade with process such as electroplating being introduced.

Did you also know that the first man made plastic was invented in the jewellery quarter? This was invented by Alexander Parkes and was called 'Parkesine'.

In 1885 it was stated that close 2.6 million items had passed through the Birmingham Assay Office. Around 30 tons to be precise! Also in this year it was reported that there was a huge downturn in business one which meant alot of jewellers were on 'half'-time'. This downturn was felt nationwide. To help combat this in the late 1880's jewellers and traders in the area started to establish there own initiatives. One of these was the Birmingham Jewellers and Silversmithing association which is now known as the British Jewellers Association. (Aspire is a member of the British Jewellers Association) At this time the School of jewellery was also established in a old factory building to help people gain qualifications in the jewellery industry.

As the jewellery quarter moved into the 20th century it benefited from the various initiatives set up and grew to a size never seen before which peaked in 1914 with over 20,000 people being employed in the area. The Jewellery Quarter continued to thrive through the first world war where there was a high demand for military buttons and medals. When the war ended this decreased as did business. It was then that the jewellery trade witnessed a change in fashion in society.

Demand for products from the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter peaked in the 1920's but again due to economic problems trade decreased. A lot of companies tried to diversify their businesses to combat this and in the second world war manufactured munitions which made the jewellery quarter a target of bombing raids. Areas of the jewellery quarter were damaged with St.Pauls Church sustaining a large amount of this. In 1943 the British Jewellers and Silversmithing Association started to establish a committee to discuss the regeneration of the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter. With building's in the area deemed inappropriate for us new plans were laid out. The Jewellery Quarter made a slight recovery in this time but some companies elected to move their factory's to other locations. Due to a lack of avaliable land in the area building was slightly hindered.

St.Pauls Church was repaired betwenn 1949 and 1951. A number of factory's were also destroyed but many of them were re-built at a later date.

In the 1960's plans were passed for major redevelopment in the area. This included a new Birmingham Assay Office, School of Jewellery and the renovation of many of the smaller workshops in the area. At this time the hockley centre was constructed to provide workshop and office space to the already crowded area. (Hockley centre is now known as 'The Big Peg') The Building was completed in 1971. During the 1980's alot of the older building's in the area were granted restoration by the English Heritage association. These buildings were used for both workshop's and living accomidation. Restoration continued to the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter through the late 1980's and for the majority of the 1990's.

In 1997 the Jewellery Quarter Urban Village Partnership was established to help attract more creative business's into the area. Early on in 1998 the English Heritage undertook a survey of all the buildings in the area and published a report titled 'The Birmingham Jewellery Quarter Urban Village'. Due to this report buildings were graded as grade 2 listed buildings. In recent years large numbers of new developments have been built and improvements to the Jewellery Quarter Have been made. With a history that stretches as far back as this why wait? Come and visit one of the biggest diamond ring shops Diamond Heaven - located in the historic Birmingham Jewellery Quarter.