The Leisure Hour, in an article on “ Brummagem jewellery,” says : —“ Birmingham is now the chief seat of the manufacture in England, for even London depends greatly there for its supply of jewellery for the middle classes. In the item of rings alone, as many as 30,000 wedding-rings have passed through the Birmingham Assay-office in a single year. And the progress of the trade has been marvellous during the last twenty-five years. The discovery of gold in Australia and California, and a growing habit of personal decoration—for vanity as well as superstition and love, tell largely on Birmingham business—have had so great an effect on it, that it now, directly and indirectly, employs more hands than any other in the midland capital. The term “ Brummagem,” sometimes given to inferior jewellery, is hardly a fair one, as articles of every variety of excellence, according to the prices allowed for them, are produced in Birmingham, while it really does much to make the beautiful and tasteful accessible to ‘the million.’ The subdivision of labour, and, yet more, the use of machinery, have greatly helped to affect this. An article was formerly made by one man ; the gold was beaten out by him to the thickness required, and hammered into the proper form, the edges were filed that they might join correctly, and it was then soldered and completed. Now, many persons are employed, and many articles of a kind produced together ; the gold is rolled by steam to the proposed gauge, blanks are cut out and struck to shape on a die by the screw-press, and the several parts have then only to be put together and ‘finished.’ In the ‘ gilt toy ’ branch, the aim is to produce good and cheap imitations of fine and costly jewellery, and the die and the press easily effect this. A locket worth from fifteen to thirty shillings in gold can be manufactured in gilt metal for a penny ; and one, which some time since had a considerable run, and was made with hinges and clasp, in the shape of a book, with good likenesses of the Prince and Princess of Wales, was sold wholesale for about a halfpenny.
Source: Journal of the Society of Arts - 16th February 1872