In a survey carried out in 1553 a Mr Roger Pemberton was named one of the first Goldsmiths of Birmingham. Following on during the 18th and 19th centuries Birmingham grew to become a large industrial town which was famous for manufacturing every kind of ware imaginable. As a result large foundries and glassworks attracted workers from all areas of Britain. A considerable trade grew up in gilt buttons, cap badges, pins and small metal toys. According to a local directory from 1780, there were twenty-six jewellers at the time. However the area of Hockley has only been a distinct "quarter" at the centre of the city's Jewellery industry since the mid-1830s, evolving out of those earlier button, pin, buckle and toy trades. On May 28th, 1845 a party of jewellery representatives travelled from Birmingham to Buckingham Palace with the intention of persuading the Queen of England to wear British made jewellery - it was pointed out to the Queen that 5,000 families were dependent on the jewellery trades in Birmingham.
As the Quarter began to grow quickly it soon eclipsed the jewellery trade in nearby Derby, which faded away from the increased competition from it’s near neighbour. As a result of the Quarter now making a very large proportion of the British Empire’s fine jewellery, nearly 700 workshops listed in a local directory in 1880. However, historians suggest that this figure may underestimate the number of jewellers that operated at the time in the Quarter,, as not all of them had the need to advertise in directories.
The trade benefited greatly from the declining price of raw gold, at the beginning of the start 1880s along with the advent of new processes such as electro plating .
In 1883, less tha n half of all silver jewellery made in Birmingham was of high enough standard to pass through Birmingham Assay Office. However, in the same year no less than 30 tons 17 cwt 4 lb 4 oz (32.3630mgagrams ) of silver jewellery and 3 tons 7 cwt 12 lb 3 oz (3.4093 Mg) of gold items were received bringing the total number of articles sent in for assaying that year to over 2.6 million.
However by 1885, there came a downturn in business which resulted in many workers from within the industry having to accept reduced hours, part time work and in many cases, unemployment. But it was not only the workers who suffered from the depression, as a number of manufacturers ceased trading, whilst the survivors continued to operate in the area that we call the “ Jewellery Quarter “ today. The Silver and Gold manufactured in the city around this period was of exceptionally high quality, with its own Hallmark with these products now considered collectibles throughou t the world.
At the same time the world famous “ Birmingham Mint ( which had first opened its doors in 1850 and moved to Icknield St in 1862 ) was producing Coins for countries overseas including Russia, Brazil, Mexico to name a few and as a result in 1889 the Birmingham Mint was acknowledged as the largest private mint in the world. Unfortunately due to world economic pressures the Birmingham Mint ceased producing coins in 2003, after the completion of an order to provide blanks for the Euro. Whilst Coin production ceased on the site, today it runs a small operation manufacturing commemorative coins and metals.