History of Jewellery Manufacturing in South Australia

jewellery manufacturing

QUICK LINKS: 1. The Late 19th to Early 20th Century | 2. 1910: the Adelaide Assay Office | 3. 1920: jewellery Manufacturing Begins to Evolve | 4. 1940s to 1950s: Post War Impact | 5. Late 20th Century – Rise of Contemporary Jewellery  | 6. 21st Century & the Future of Manufacturing Jewellers 

South Australian Jewellery manufacturing has a rich and diverse history, reflecting our state’s cultural heritage. Let’s explore a detailed timeline of the evolution of jewellery manufacturing in South Australia, and what the future holds for jewellery making.

The Late 19th to Early 20th Century: Emergence of Craftsmanship

The Arts Movement emphasised craftsmanship and individual artistic expression and gained popularity in South Australia. Several talented jewellers, such as Thomas Hardy & Sons and Wendts, emerged during this period, incorporating traditional techniques and innovative designs.

James Place South Australia

1910: Establishment of Adelaide Assay Office

In 1910 the Adelaide Assay Office was officially established. It provided hallmarking and assaying (analysing) services to jewellers, testing and ensuring the quality and purity of precious metal items. This institution was crucial in establishing trust and standards in jewellery manufacturing.

1920: Jewellery Manufacturing in South Australia Begins to Evolve

W. C. Ellis & Co. was a prominent jewellery manufacturer and retailer in Adelaide during the 1920s. They specialised in crafting a wide range of jewellery, including rings, necklaces, earrings, and brooches. Their designs showcased a blend of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary influences. 

Other renowned manufacturing jewellers included Andrew Usher & Co., W. H. Chinner & Sons and W. C. Grueber & Sons. Their designs reflected the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles, incorporating intricate metalwork and gemstone arrangements. Their pieces often featured intricate details, such as hand-engraving and delicate filigree work.

In 1920 Bell & Brunt was established by Mr Edgar Bell Senior, specialising as a wholesale repair manufacturer for retail jewellery stores. Using specialised jewellery hand tools, Edgar would provide resizing, solder repairs and claw work for many of South Australia’s jewellery shops.

wendt image state library

The 1940s – 1950s: Post-World War Impact on Jewellery Industry

After World War II, South Australia experienced an economic boom, and consumer demand for luxury goods, including jewellery, increased. Existing jewellers expanded their operations, and new jewellery businesses emerged to cater to the growing market. 

Bell & Brunt expanded its team to include Edgar Bell Junior, William Brunt, and William’s son Keith Brunt. Keith was learning from well-known Jeweller Eric Annells, who had worked at A. Marrow and Son, who taught him the basics of jewellery manufacturing. Keith would spend all his spare time practising from the bench he built in his garage and, once perfected, began creating spectacular diamond rings and selling them both from his home and to retail jewellery stores.

In the 1960s, Keith Brunt had built his diamond ring crafting skills to an incredible level, which saw Bell & Brunt open its workshop doors to the general public, manufacturing all jewellery pieces by hand for its growing loyal customer base. 

Delve into the rich heritage of Bell & Brunt by visiting our History Page. Learn about our journey, the passion that fuels our craftsmanship, and the values that define our brand.

Keith Brunt with his father

Late 20th Century & the Rise of Contemporary Jewellery

In the late 20th Century, South Australia saw the rise of contemporary jewellery designers like Catherine Truman and Helen Aitken-Kuhnen, who pushed the boundaries of traditional jewellery making. These artists experimented with unconventional materials, techniques, and designs, bringing a fresh perspective to the industry.

In the 1960s and onwards, institutions like the JamFactory and TAFE SA (Technical and Further Education South Australia) started offering courses in jewellery design and manufacturing. These educational programs contributed to the professionalisation and skill development of local jewellers. Until then, no professional jewellery education programs were offered in South Australia.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the consumer mindset began to focus more on investment. Customers saw the value of purchasing high-quality pieces that would appreciate over time. Jewellery stores provided valuations, certificates of authenticity and offered professional appraisals to ensure customers felt confident in their purchases.

jewellers tools on bench

21st Century & the Future of Manufacturing Jewellers

Handmade jewellery manufacturing in the 21st Century combines traditional artistry with technological advancements, sustainability practices, customisation options, and a solid online presence. It thrives by adapting to changing consumer demands and focusing on craftsmanship and individuality.

Handmade jewellery manufacturing focuses on artistry and craftsmanship. Skilled artisans employ traditional techniques and intricate skill sets to create unique, high-quality pieces. The emphasis on craftsmanship ensures that each piece is carefully handmade, showcasing the skill and expertise of the maker.

The future of jewellery manufacturing continues to grow, with customers embracing customised jewellery options. As people look for personal meaning and individuality in their jewellery, the market of mass-produced retail jewellery struggles to deliver bespoke jewellery options. Handmade jewellery manufacturers offer customisation and personalisation options to cater to individual customer preferences.

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