All that glistens
A craze for jewellery made from tiny pieces of steel cut to imitate diamonds swept Britain in the late 1700s. Far from being a cheap substitute for precious stone, steel jewellery was expensive. Buckles for a pair of shoes could take two weeks to handcraft.
Wolverhampton and Bilston were centres of this craft. By 1770 there were 127 buckle makers in Wolverhampton and 68 in Bilston.
The areas thriving metalwork industry made it ideal for the manufacture of steel jewellery. Metalworkers accustomed to making domestic goods, nails and metal parts adapted their skills to make beautiful jewellery.
The jewellery was made by riveting steel ‘gems’ to a base of thin sheet metal. Each small piece was individually shaped and polished. When combined on a brooch, buckle or button, the effect was spectacular.