Last Sunday I found myself in Birmingham: and although the purpose was to see the Yatha Ratra (Festival of the Chariots), in the afternoon I wandered around the Jewellery Quarter.
Jewellery making was a major industry in Birmingham, and the Quarter dates back over 250 years. There are still more than 500 jewellers in the area.
Birmingham still has its own assay office, founded in 1773, which is the largest in the world.
The Assay Office has its own archive and library , which can be visited by appointment:.theassayoffice.co.uk/access_archive_library.html
You can find out more about the Quarter here: www.jewelleryquarter.net/about
There are several online walk guides to the Jewellery Quarter: bobmiles.bulldoghome.com has plenty of photographs and historical information. The walk takes several hours if you want to look at everything, but can easily be broken down into shorter chunks.
The Jewellery Quarter was also home to the Birmingham steel nib manufacturers. Birmingham was the capital of the steel nib trade, and there is a fascinating museum dedicated to this often-forgotten industry: www.penroom.co.uk
I didn’t have time to explore the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter:
bmag.org.uk/museum-of-the-jewellery-quarter – but I’ve made a note to visit it in the non-too-distant future.