In Birmingham, England, artisans worry that luxury apartments and trendy cafes may push them out of an area where jewelers have been centered since the 18th century.
BIRMINGHAM, England — Kirsty Griffiths’ delight was evident as she held a pair of 22-karat gold bands, newly refashioned from her grandfather’s weighty wedding ring. “One for me and my own wedding and one for my auntie,” Ms. Griffiths, 31, said recently inside a cramped jewelry workshop here. “My granddad had left the original one to her.”
The rings now bear the anchor-shaped Birmingham Assay Office hallmark certifying the purity of the gold and the LL insignia of their maker, Lora Leedham. Ms. Leedham, 35, is part of a generation of independent craftspeople working alongside large heritage companies in the gentrifying neighborhood known as the Jewelry Quarter, a hub for makers since the 18th century.
Visitor guides say about 40 percent of all the jewelry made in Britain today is created in the quarter (although no one interviewed for this article could confirm that number). But many in Britain consider the neighborhood — which covers about 270 acres in this multicultural city of more than 1.1 million in the West Midlands region — worth the trip to shop for bespoke items like wedding and engagement rings.
The Jewelry Quarter Development Trust, a group working to revitalize the quarter, estimates that more than 800 jewelry-related businesses, including more than 100 retail shops, operate in the area. They provide jobs for 4,000 people, according to Ben Massey, marketing director for the National Association of Jewelers, which is based here, too.
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