Back to the Bench? Understanding the British Manufacturing Jewellers' Transfer to Rearmament and Munitions Production in the Second World War
From Britain’s declaration of entry into the Second World War on 3 September 1939, the jewellery industry and other British manufacturing industries faced an uncertain period in their production. Government ministries required both people and munitions and these requirements dramatically altered manufacturing jewellers’ work during the war. This dissertation focuses on the jewellers’ transfer from jewellery manufacture to war work to understand how they adapted their existing skills to new metals, products and production quantities. This conversion has received little attention from jewellery historians and war historians, even though the work helped jewellers maintain their skills ready to support the jewellery industry post-war.
The jewellers’ war experience is discussed in relation to the three different scales that influenced their work: the trade, the workshop and the individual jewellers themselves. Trade publications and trade association records reveal that the jewellers worked closely both socially and geographically in peacetime and that they actively maintained this network during the war. Moreover, the importance the jewellers attributed to the trade structure continued to the workshop; though new people and new machines joined the workshop during the war, the jewellers classified these changes in terms of their existing skill-based structure. New production contracts required new methods of measuring precision, which led the jewellers to identify their war work as engineering, despite continuing to identify themselves as jewellers. Their identification of themselves, other workers and machines in relation to their peacetime occupation demonstrates the cohesive nature and strength of the British jewellery industry.
The design history methodologies used in this investigation emphasise the role of the maker within this production history. Trade publications, company ledgers and blueprints, amongst other primary sources, are analysed both for their content and their design; this analysis reveals the importance of both human and non-human actors in the jewellers’ transfer to war work. This dissertation thus argues that the jewellers maintained their existing structure of human and non-human actors during the war to help them navigate their new work.
School of Arts & Humanities
MA History of Design, 2018
A design historian working in the British jewellery industry. I am particularly interested in the manufacturing jeweller and understanding how they use and adapt their skills for different projects. My MA work has focused on the concept of precision in jewellery manufacture and engineering; I particularly question who sets precision and think about different ways of understanding and measuring precision during the making process.
I undertake varied work as a jewellery historian, researcher and writer. I also help organise speaker events, exhibitions and masterclasses with national and international jewellery houses.
- BA Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Oxford, 2014; FGA Gemmology, Gemmological Association of Great Britain, 2015
- Assistant, Joanna Hardy - Independent Fine Jewellery Specialist, London, 2017-present; Jewellery Sales Consultant, Webley London, Hatton Garden, 2015-2016; Auction Room Assistant, Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers, Stansted Mountfitchet, 2014; Intern, Antiquities Department, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2012
- Assistant for 'Timeless Innovation: Selections from The Goldsmiths' Company's Modern Jewellery Collection and Beyond', The Goldsmiths' Hall, London, 2017
- Editorial Assistant for Joanna Hardy, 'Ruby: The King of Gems', London: Violette Editions and Thames & Hudson, 2017