The Birmingham Jewellery Quarter
The Jewellery Quarter is the colloquial name by which the area of Hockley is more familiarly known within the city. The jewellery trade developed here over hundreds of years, from metal products in the 16th century, to its glory days as the most important centre for Britain’s jewellery trade at the height of the industrial revolution.
Metalworking, the forerunner of Birmingham’s jewellery trade, was already established in the 1500s. Birmingham’s metalworkers were casting large cannons, swords and anchors. While those industries have long since left the city, the anchor is still used as a symbol in hallmarking to denote jewellery made in Birmingham.
In the 1600s the industries evolved from heavy casting to finer items such as cutlery and mirrors and in the 1700s Birmingham was supplying the world fine, elaborate items such as silverware, guns, and snuffboxes.
Eventually the area known as Hockley became a hub for toy making, tinkering, clock making and the manufacturing of jewellery. In the late 19th Century the area had over 7000 professionals exclusively working with jewellery, and began to earn its reputation as The Jewellery Quarter.
Why visit the Jewellery Quarter
Birmingham is a large, vibrant city, but the Jewellery Quarter practically sits on its own in terms of reverence, history and compelling reasons for making a visit.
If you need to plan a day out and experience an area quite unlike any other in a big city, we’ve got some compelling reasons to visit the Jewellery Quarter:
Obviously, the Jewellery Quarter remains among the best places in the UK to source stunning rings, earrings and anything that sparkles. There are over one hundred jewellers to check out, with something on offer for every budget.
As noted at the start of this page, the Jewellery Quarter is a historical goldmine, and if you have even a passing interest in beautiful, old architecture or streets that ooze historical significance, it’s a brilliant day out.
Because the Jewellery Quarter has such a detailed history, there are plenty of museums to check out if you fancy getting a feel for the area’s heritage.
Great bars and restaurants
The Jewellery Quarter is considered to be one of the most ‘gentrified’ places in the UK, and that has spawned a huge number of welcoming independent bars and restaurants that all offer a completely unique experience.
6 things you might not know about the Jewellery Quarter:
For the uninitiated, Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter is simply a very nice place to go when you need to source the best wedding or engagement ring for someone special.
In reality, it’s much more than that, with a plethora of things to do and little-known facts that will keep you coming back for more.
With that in mind, we’ve put together six things you might not know about the Jewellery Quarter.
1. The past is slowly being brought back to life
As you wander the timeless streets of the Jewellery Quarter, you can’t help but notice the stunning architecture of the numerous factories that now lie dormant.
Once part of the thriving jewellery industry, many of these buildings are now slowly being converted into fantastic apartments – bringing back to life some of the most historical parts of Birmingham and giving you the chance to own a slice of history.
2. Independent restaurants are thriving
Beyond the big name chains you’ll find throughout Birmingham, the Jewellery Quarter is home to a huge number of independent businesses.
From small cafes, to craft beer houses and fascinating shops, the independent scene in the JQ is thriving.
3. You can reach it for £1
Getting around cities can be pretty expensive if you opt for public transport. Not so, in Birmingham.
Let’s say you arrive by train; a short hop across from New Street Station lies the brilliant tram service which will take you directly to the Jewellery Quarter for just £1 – say “goodbye” to hefty taxi fares!
4. Don’t forget the Golden Square
Once a derelict, weed-infested car park, the Golden Square is now a fantastic place to meet and enjoy a range of events.
For example, when the Rio Olympics was taking place, large screens were erected, and during the summer there’s always a band or two if you fancy taking a breather from the shopping to enjoy brilliant local music.
Alternatively, St Paul’s Square remains a very popular, quiet place to sit down on one of the many benches and enjoy the views of the Grade 1 listed church and surrounding architecture.
5. A jewellery education
If the jewellery industry is something you fancy getting into, you might be interested to hear that the Jewellery Quarter is home to the largest school of jewellery in Europe and is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on jewellery making.
6. A sporting history
Again, it might be tempting to think ‘wedding ring’ when you think of the Jewellery Quarter, but the factories that produce such precious metal have put their skills to use for a host of other reasons, too.
Most notably, both the original FA Cup and Lonsdale boxing champions belts were made in the Jewellery Quarter, earning it a rather special place in the history of sporting achievement.
Have we tempted you to visit the Jewellery Quarter? Go on – pay it a visit!
Places of interest in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter
The Jewellery Quarter remains one of the most popular places to visit in Birmingham, thanks to buildings that hark back to the industrial revolution and a huge selection of independent jewellers, coffees shops, bars and restaurants.
With an area as vibrant and rabbit warren-like as the Jewellery Quarter, it pays to have a plan when you decide to hop on the short tram ride from Birmingham’s New Street station. In this blog, we’ve listed what we believe to be the key places of interest for anyone looking to make a day out in the Jewellery Quarter.
The Pen Museum
A museum dedicated to pens might not be at the top of your list when planning a day out, but the Jewellery Quarter’s pen museum remains a very popular attraction – and for good reason.
Going far beyond pens, this particular museum features over 5,000 exhibits that are related to the history of writing and the significant role Birmingham’s steel pen trade played in it. You’ll discover some amazing facts, too. For example, did you know that the Jewellery Quarter was once home to the ‘Birmingham Pen’ which supplied 75% of the world’s pens during the 19th century?
Jewellery Quarter Museum
The Jewellery Quarter’s eclectic history is well documented, but there’s nothing quite like seeing it first-hand, and the Jewellery Quarter Museum is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the area’s heritage.
A perfectly preserved workshop in the heart of the JQ, this museum enables you to explore a ‘time capsule’ that demonstrates exactly how the craft was carried out during the industrial revolution.
Assay Office Birmingham
Founded in 1773, the Assay Office was designated as the place to carry out testing (otherwise known as ‘assaying’) and hallmarking of precious metal.
For over 250 years, this popular venue has built a reputation for housing expert opinion on all things jewellery and precious metal. For those with items of their own, the Assay Office also offers a valuation service for diamond, gemstone and pearl certification, watch and silverware.
St Paul’s Square
Arguably the most famous of the Jewellery Quarter’s squares, St Paul’s is an elegant Georgian hallmark that remains one of the most popular places to relax while enjoying the Grade 1 listed church within its grounds.
Once nothing more than a disused, overgrown car park, the Golden Square has since been turned into a vibrant meeting place and outdoor venue for a whole host of events.
It’s not unusual to catch the sounds of a local band at the weekend or be gifted perfect views of big sporting events via large screens. It’s no wonder this £1.6 million development in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter has become one of the most popular places for people to meet and enjoy their surroundings.
The Chamberlain Clock was erected in 1903 and marked Joseph Chamberlain’s tour of South Africa, which took place during 1902. Immediately recognisable thanks to it’s tall stature, dark green paint and beautiful design, this is a clock that demands a photograph and acts as a brilliant place to meet if you happen to get lost!
Warstone Lane Cemetery
Sometimes known as ‘Brookfields Cemetery’, Warstone Lane dates all the way back to 1847, and features two tiers of catacombs which once emitted deadly vapours that led to the Birmingham Cemeteries Act (a requirement for non-interred coffins to be sealed with pitch or lead).
Although no longer open to new burials, Warstone Lane is one of two cemeteries in the Jewellery Quarter who’s timeless architecture can still be enjoyed by all.
The Coffin Works
Sound a bit morbid? Far from it! Coffin Works is actually a working jewellery factory which is full of original stock and tools of the trade from a bygone era.
The old machinery still chugs away, and visitors can experience exactly what it was like to make jewellery at the turn of the industrial revolution. As the name suggests, the factory was also well-known for producing some of the world’s finest coffin furniture.
We’ve only scratched the surface, but you could spend plenty of time visiting the places of interest featured above, and chances are you’ll want to return again and again.