Machines like the rolling mill which allowed a goldsmith to flatten metals into sheets and the stamping press which was used to stamp out shapes from those flattened metal sheets, as well as the developments that led to electroplating and rolled gold, all led to increasing industrialization of jewellery making. A growing and affluent middle class also meant that there was a demand for less expensive jewellery.
Centres like Birmingham could offer an extraordinary range of jewellery manufacturing services and by 1880, about 700 workshops of varying sizes were operating there. High quality jewellery items continued to be made but there were also plenty of workshops producing less expensive items. One growth was that of jewellery trinkets and toys which might have a specific use but which also might be just decorative.
Examples of trinkets produced were fobs to be attached to watch chains. The photo above shows a small 15ct fob which contains a roulette wheel while the photo at the top of the post is that of a banded agate fob containing a compass. The eagle-headed watch key below was also intended to be hung as a fob.
Lockets were also produced, often with little hidden purposes. Some were in the form of a book with leaves inside to hold photos or miniature paintings. The rolled gold locket below offered more secrets.
On one side, when you open the locket, you find a little magnifying glass, and the words ‘Patent June 5. 1877’ are inscribed underneath. This side of the locket has little louvres or plantation shutters set in a frame. On the other side of the locket, which is inscribed on the front with the name’ Minnie’, there is a little door which opens to a compartment in which you can place a photo or a lock of hair.
These little trinkets were affordable, often amusing, and able to be talked about among friends.