Birmingham Jewellery, Electro-Plate, and Kindred Trades
Until a few years since, firms engaged in the jewellery trade in Birmingham were divided into two classes–manufacturers and factors. One of the first, if not the first, to break down this distinction was the well-know firm of B. H. Joseph & Co., of 20, Frederick Street, who now hold a prominent position in the front of the trade in the Midland metropolis as manufacturers. Employing a great number of workmen and a large staff of clerks, a visit to their establishment is not only interesting but exceedingly instructive, showing how easily and smoothly a large and important business can be transacted. Workmen, numbering some hundreds, and spread over the whole jewellery district, are employed by Messrs. Joseph, embracing all classes of skilled workers, both in gold and silver. Their representatives travel in every part of the kingdom, and do business with the best people, and as they have an extensive connection in the Colonies, our readers will see that their business is necessarily a large one.
We had the pleasure a few days back of going over their Birmingham establishment, at a time when the principal work of the day was going on. Quantities of goods were coming in from the workmen in the different stages of manufacture and finished; and from the orders which were in the last process of execution, namely being sent to their destination, one would think that they alone supplied jewellery enough for the whole country. We understand that every day upwards of one hundred parcels are thus sent away by registered post and rail, and at specially busy seasons, considerably over that number.
Entering the melting shop, we were surprised to notice the great mass of silver being reduced to the liquid state, and were informed that besides using a large quantity for their own work, the firm do a considerable business in refining. From there we proceeded to the rough warehouse, which is so-called because into it are brought all kinds of jewellery in the different processes of manufacture, the work being all done outside by what are known in Birmingham as “garret workmen.” The gold, silver, and stones are supplied to the workmen, who afterwards account for them. Great confidence is therefore placed in the men, who form a sober, industrious class.
Every article brought in finished is thoroughly examined before being allowed to pass into stock, and the slightest fault secures the rejection alike of a cheap or a costly article. In the stock room many persons were busily engaged calculating the cost of goods, labelling, carding, marking off, making entries in the stock books, and sending goods to the different representatives of the firm for sale. The strong room is situated here, and it is a marvel of strength, with a great capacity for resisting any attempt of the safe-breaking fraternity.
Passing through the private office, which is situated in the centre, so as to overlook the whole of the offices, we come to the jobbing and order department, where the largest number of clerks, both men and women, are at work. This portion of their business is a special feature with Messrs. Josephs, and one which has earned for them the highest character for promptitude and good work. With this is connected the approbation department, also a special feature, and a prominent one. From the commencement of their business, this as well as the jobbing branch have been industriously promoted, and both departments have consequently attained a superior degree of thoroughness and efficiency. These branches are personally superintended by one of the firm, who makes it his business to see every order attended to, however small.
Walking through the ledger department, where some half dozen clerks are actively employed, we were introduced to the shipping warehouse, where boxes were being dispatched to various countries, notably Australia and the Cape, with which Colonies Messrs. Josephs have extensive connections.
The prominent position this firm has gained is not only due to the industry and perseverance which characterise its management, but also to its enterprise, and the tact displayed in providing novelties and discovering the tendency of the public mind for the time being towards any particular fashion in jewellery. These are qualities which deserve success, and by them Messrs. Josephs will continue to earn the golden opinions of their customers.
Source: The Jeweller and Metalworker - May 1882