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Tools, Skill & Identity: The work of Birmingham's manufacturing jewellers, 1940-1960

Hockley, now known as Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, is home to manufacturing jewellers and a myriad of allied trades. The cluster of skills, materials and demand in this industrial district has ensured Birmingham’s position as the UK’s largest producer of jewellery for centuries.

The 1940s recruitment drives and changeover of workers for equipment production for the Armed Forces during the Second World War disrupted these established relationships and routines. This research project investigates the enduring impact of this change in production on jewellers’ concepts of identity in the 1940s and 1950s. A focus on the jewellers’ identities reinstates craftspeople to a production history that has previously focused only on industry leaders.

The involvement of the late-1940s Labour government in assessments of industry efficiency, including that of the jewellery industry, highlighted the importance that policy makers and industry leaders beyond Birmingham attributed to the jewellers’ work. This research argues for a reclaiming of the term ‘adaptation’ away from ontologies of efficiency and improvement to better describe manufacturing processes and their place within jewellers’ experiences in the 1940s and 1950s.

A careful engagement with the jewellers’ system through understanding traditions of tool ownership and workshop space, coupled with analysis of small firms’ wages books and jewellers’ oral histories, creates links to the jewellers that rest on the principle of proximity in their established trade system – a proximity that traverses the time between the 1940s and the present.


More about Georgina

Georgina is a design historian that researches craftspeople’s identities, concepts of skill and experiences of manufacturing, particularly within the British jewellery industry.

Georgina is a gemmologist (FGA) and undertakes archival and research projects as an independent jewellery specialist. She is involved with content production and editing for books and articles about antique and contemporary fine jewellery.

V&A/RCA MA History of Design, Victoria & Albert Museum and Royal College of Art, 2018

Foundation and Diploma in Gemmology (FGA), Gemmological Association of Great Britain, 2015

BA Archaeology & Anthropology, The University of Oxford, 2014

Visiting Lecturer, V&A/RCA MA History of Design, Royal College of Art, 2020-2021.

Researcher and Editorial Assistant, Sapphire: A Celebration of Colour by Joanna Hardy, Violette Editions and Thames & Hudson, 2021.

Independent Jewellery Specialist, 2018-Present. Research and archival projects for gems and jewellery companies, including Frazer & Haws, Elizabeth Gage and Garrard.

Gallery Assistant, Contemporary Applied Arts, London, 2018-2019.

Editorial Assistant, Ruby: The King of Gems by Joanna Hardy, Violette Editions & Thames & Hudson, 2017.

Summer Intern, Antiquities Department, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2012.

AHRC London Arts & Humanities Partnership Research Studentship, 2019.

V&A Fashion History Award, 2016.

Presentation, 'War Work in the Jewellery Quarter, 1939-1945', Jewellery Quarter Townscape Heritage, November 2020.

Convenor, Early Modern Material Culture Seminar Series, Institute of Historical Research, London, 2017.