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The Foundation of Birmingham Assay Office and Silver Workmanship


  • Yoshihiko Okabe

    () (Graduate School of Economics, Osaka University)


Birmingham Assay Office was established in 1773 by Toy manufacturers producting plated goods like Matthew Boulton. Main products of Birmingham were plated by gilt technique, so it was not easy to get credit for their products as growing area. Assay office had to be needed not only for the practical purpose but also credibility of Birmingham area as own assaying system. Lobbying activity was held by strong leadership of Boulton who was a well informed person and had political and financial links. Almost all entrepreneurs who became Guardians of assay office, were strong leaders in Birmingham including other fields not only toy traders and gold smith. They realized necessity of Assay office, and also do expected new direction of predicting of Silver products. However, production of Silver goods was not increased immediately after foundation of Birmingham Assay Office. Boulton and his colleague had intention to emerging new industry in their rural area, but not like their expectation, Birmingham Assay Office was functioning in traditional ways as other current ones. As a result of analyze of registered goods in Birmingham Assay Office, we find that many decorative silver goods were included, and toys were also made in silver material. It seams that manufacturing of silver made toys would become key industry of Birmingham as a growing area of decorative silver goods. The background, wide range decorative silver goods were emerged after foundation of Birmingham assay office, was reduction of risk to manufacturing, and more his strong presence contributing for market competitiveness by raising the public estimate of growing area and own brands as "Birmingham silver".

Suggested Citation

  • Yoshihiko Okabe, 2008. "The Foundation of Birmingham Assay Office and Silver Workmanship," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 08-23, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:osk:wpaper:0823

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    Industrial Revolution; Entrepreneurship; Toy trade; Silver products; Birmingham;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • L61 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Metals and Metal Products; Cement; Glass; Ceramics
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology

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