Jewel in the Town  

Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter is a cultural gem preserving old traditions of jewellery manufacturing 

Published: 29th January 2023 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th January 2023 11:23 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Just like its ethnically diverse population, Birmingham, UK’s second-largest city, has several interesting sights for tourists. 

One among them is a true gem, suitably called the Jewellery Quarter. Dripping with history, the street, with its quaint Victorian and 20th-century buildings, houses workshops of some of the most distinguished jewellery manufacturers, contributing to over 40 percent of jewellery made in the country; over 700 goldsmiths and independent retailers call it home. As the largest jewellery hub in Europe, the Quarter is worth a visit for a glimpse into how some of the most exquisitely crafted rings, earrings, necklaces and brooches are made using original machinery, fixtures and fittings. 

Terrazzo blocks leading to the Quarter

Best explored on foot, the cobbled pathways of this urban village are sprinkled with metal and granite terrazzo blocks leading you to the vintage red-brick offices and old-world factories with chimney outlets designed like chess pieces. You’ll see a mix of architectural styles—regency style, which was in vogue until 1850, followed by Gothic influences, some Italianate ones and a lot of art nouveau motifs. 

There are buildings all over; some of them are independent houses, others have been converted into jewellery factories. Originally, there was a lot more room between these buildings, but as the place gained popularity, construction changed the look it. Most houses were turned into warehouses and gardens gave way to workshops. 

But it is the conservation area by the edge of the canal, with over 200 listed buildings along with restaurants and bars, art galleries and jewellery kiosks, which is a crowd-pleaser. For the sheer variety of entertainment it provides, the street is on every tourist’s must-visit list. A famous spot here is the first assay office (before official testing methods were devised, assaying and hallmarking of precious metals was done by jewellery-makers) founded in 1773. As the story goes, a coin was tossed before the inauguration of both Birmingham and Sheffield Assay Offices to determine that Birmingham will adopt the anchor as its hallmarking symbol, while Sheffield took the Crown. 

In every corner of the Quarter lies a tale from the past, one such being the cleverly placed Banksy artwork on Vyse Street. There is also the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter; the Pen museum, where the finest nibs and quills are displayed; and the Coffin Museum that has produced some of the world’s finest coffin furniture, including the fittings for the funerals of Princess Diana, Joseph Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother. That’s some history to get acquainted with.

India Matters


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