Birmingham's jewellery quarter is not what you might expect. The Midlands city has a long and rich history of precious metalsmithery and fine jewellery creation, but the quarter itself is, if you'll excuse the pun, something of a hidden gem. It may be home to over 700 jewellers and independent retailers, but stroll about the backstreets and alleyways and you'd be forgiven for thinking the neighbourhood had been evacuated. The streets may be on the quiet side, but step inside the old warren-like red-brick buildings and you'll be met with the low hum of modern machinery, and the bang, thud, grind of the slightly more antiquated variety. At least that is how it is at Yard-O-Led on Spencer Street, where I am visiting with Director Emma Field.
Yard-O-Led, as Emma Points out, is a small operation with a big heritage, having been in the niche business of handcrafting sterling silver writing implements since 1934, but whose history actually dates back to around the turn of the 19th century and to one Sampson Mordan. He was the favourite apprentice and assistant of a locksmith by the name of John Bramah, and his associate Michael Faraday. It's unclear whether Mordan fancied himself as something of a scribe but he certainly showed aptitude in crafting the writer's tools.