It is interesting to look at why certain areas of countries specialized in the production of particular items of jewellery. Some of this specialisation was because the key materials used in the jewellery items was mined in the area. This was the case in Whitby, England, which specialized in jet jewellery in the 18th and 19th centuries. Also in Idar-Oberstein in Germany which specialized in producing agate jewellery from the 16th century, as agate was mined in the nearby Nahe River Valley. Agate jewellery production is still carried out there. Bohemia (later part of Czechoslovokia) was a location for garnet mining and the processing of the jewellery moved to the nearby town of Turnov where garnet jewellery is still produced. The discovery of gold in Ballarat in the 1850s led to the growth in the number of Melbourne jewelers over the next few decades. 

Whitby jet bracelet and padlock (in Navette on Ruby Lane)

Another reason for specialization was because of industrialization and the need to group the craftsmen and women and the manufacturing capability in one location. Industrialisation meant that small cottage industries could not satisfy the growing middleclass demand for jewellery and so it made sense to move to manufacturing hubs. The Birmingham jewellery centre in England was one such hub, while another was Providence, Rhode Island in the US.

Antique ivory hand from Erbach

A third reason was when one group of artisans were encouraged to focus on one particular item by a sponsor or ruling body. The de Medici family of Florence founded a Workshop for Hard Stone in 1588 to assist in the development of a pietra dura industry in Florence. In the 1870s, Count Franz I of Erbach-Erbach encouraged a revival of ivory carving in Erbach, even learning to carve ivory himself and importing ivory from Africa into Erbach.

Sometimes, there might have been a couple of the above reasons for why a jewellery specialization began and flourished. Over the next few weeks, I will concentrate on a few of the jewellery specialisation areas.