Saturday, 19 September 2020

WAP watson exquisite jewellery history

Exquisite Jewellery history of the UK company W.A.P. Watson Ltd from Solihull.

Bone vintage rose brooch by Exquisite jewellery
Rose brooch with bone detail by Exquisite

Bone vintage rose brooch by Exquisite
Since 2008, when I first started selling jewellery on Jewels & Finery, I have been researching Exquisite jewellery. Over the years I have found many beautiful and not so beautiful brooches, earrings, bracelets and necklaces that were made by the Exquisite factory. As we live within walking distance from the site where the factory once stood. It means that we often come across Exquisite pieces.
This research will continue as I am well placed in Solihull to see what I can find about the company and their many ranges.
So for those that have missed my various blog posts and articles scattered across the internet. This is the Exquisite jewellery background and a small amount of information on the jewellery ranges that I have discovered so far. Along with exclusive photographs of the range. All our photographs are our own with pictures of the many pieces I have brought over the years. 

At the end of Queen Victoria’s era, a jeweller named Walter Archibald Parker Watson (1880 -1952) established a factory in the famous Jewellery Quarter in Hockley Birmingham. However in 1914 at the onset of World war One, he sold his business to Augustus Harry Power (1878 -1952) and Clarence Oswald Flint (1880 – 1946) This two men kept his name – W.A.P. Watson and eventually became a limited company.
It has fascinated me on why did they keep the founders name? Was it because the business had a good reputation and was well established? Did W.A.P. Watson have shares in the business and it was part of the agreed sale? Were they very good friends; and was it in respect for Walter, who enlisted in the 1st/5th Battalion of the Royal Warwick Regiment as a second Lieutenant? He enlisted in 1915 and rose to captain before being injured and invalid out of the army in 1923.
Why they kept the name? – this I have yet to find out. By the time of Clarence’ death in 1946, he appears to have already left the company – although he still retained very good friendship with Augustus Power’s son.

To continue with the growth of the company. In the first instance the partners came from very different backgrounds.


Augustus Harry Power an engraver by trade came from a family of gun makers that lived in Moseley, Birmingham. He had travelled to London to work and gain experience initially. By 1906 he had a thriving business with warehouse space in Whittall Street in Birmingham. In 1911 he is listed as a gun engraver on the census, along with his brother Richard also a gun engraver. Still in 1912 he had a warehouse in Whittall street and lived in the Kings Heath area of Birmingham.
Clarence Oswald Power was once a clerk who’s family were auctioneers and estate agents. They lived in Edgbaston, Birmingham along the Hagley Road, then moved to Bearwood by 1911 and was then a jeweller and manager. This smattering of information has been gained from the census of 1901, 1891, 1911 and 1881.
It is a strange feeling that my own ancestors were a long line of gun engravers and masters in their trade. They also lived and worked in both the areas that these two were. So it is very possible that they were known to each other??

W.A.P. Watson was a small company to start, with only 6 people employed. From 1914 they were manufacturing costume jewelry. However during the first and second world wars they would have been employed to aid the war effort.

In 1920 they had premises in Augusta Street in the St Paul’s ward, Birmingham. It looks as though they shared the large factory area with at least 4 other businesses.

The trade name of Exquisite was introduced to foster customer loyalty. The signature on the jewellery was introduced in the mid 1950s and continued until they stopped manufacturing in the late 1970s. This means that there is quite a lot of unsigned exquisite jewellery pre 1950s that was manufactured.  Before they moved to Solihull, the company manufactured for other sellers wholesale. After moving they used the name Exquisite exclusively for their own range that they sold direct to shops. I have also seen unsigned jewellery from the 1950s onwards that looks to be Exquisite – as they match signed pieces. This is because some ranges did not have any signatures, especially pieces that were popular and so had more than one manufacturing run.
Early Scottish brooch by Exquisite

This is possible an early Scottish brooch by Exquisite - made before they stamped them with the brand name. However Hollywood also made this style of brooch. 

With their business expanding WAP Watson Ltd moved at least three times in the UK. From their original premises in Northampton Street, a small side street in the Jewellery Quarter to Great Hampton Street, a main road in the Jewellery Quarter. At this point, they employed 125 people. Along side costume jewellery, they manufactured crested souvenirs and had another premises in nearby Mary Street. With the growing success of the jewellery and souvenirs, a larger business site was needed. The jewellery quarter and the centre of Birmingham was (and still is!) very congested. So in 1954, WAP Watson Ltd moved to a 3 acres site in Vulcan Road, Solihull.

The company remained a family business with Wallis and Jack Power, the sons of Augustus becoming Managing Directors. In the seventies Graham Hughes became an associate and took over the companies expansion.

Production of the Exquisite jewellery, Mirella range and souvenirs continued for the next 20 years, until the seventies. The factory was producing around 20,000 pieces of jewellery per week during this period. The second largest manufacturer of costume jewellery in the UK – I have guessed that the first would have been Coro, the US company based in Sussex.

With the influx of cheap imported jewellery, mainly from Hong Kong. The costume jewellery sales fell and so the Exquisite line ceased in the late seventies. From the Solihull factory, the souvenir range expanded and also a range in the trade name of “Mirella” general gift ware of mirrors, picture frames, pill boxes and pens. With the loss of jewellery sales and the last recession, the company survived by reducing employees and by the increased demand for souvenirs. Along with the souvenirs such as spoons, thimbles, bells and letter openers. They produced a range of leather crafted souvenirs trading as “Manor”
Poodle jewellery pot by Mirella

Above is a vintage trinket or jewellery pot by Mirella. Complete with a poodle in all gold plate with a single pearl. Stamped Mirella on the bottom.
Boxed donkey ornaments by Exquisite
Boxed donkey ornaments by Exquisite in all silver plate. Probably made in the 1970s.
Potter Heigham travel charm by Exquisite in silver

Travel charms in silver to add to a charm bracelet became popular. This one was from Potter Heigham. 
Walking stick badge by Exquisite

Walking stick badge in it's original packaging. Added to a wooden walking stick to remember the places visited. I have a load of these which one day I will get around to photograph!!

It was in the mid to late seventies that I started to collect spoons. My penfriend had come to stay from America and she collected thimbles from all the places that we visited. So I started to collect spoons, this has grown over the years to a collection of hundreds. I no longer can display them all and they languish in boxes! But I still collect the odd one or two – but now they must be quite special.

During the late seventies to eighties, the company started to produce pewter Victorian street scenes, and the brand “Tudor Mint” was born. The “Crystal flame” range followed with animals of silver and gilt plated with crystal. Then then in 1989 the “Myths and Magic” range, which allowed the company to once more flourish. the medieval figures and dragons were an instant success and so the company opened a subsidiary in Houston Texas in 1995 and moved to Florida in 1997. It was in the late nineties or early 2000’s that the Solihull factory closed.
Myths and Magic Grim Reaper badge by W A P Watson

A Grim Reaper badge from the Myth and Magic jewellery range of The Tudor Mint. Made in G Britain by W A P Watson. Still in it's original packaging.

Since then in 2007 the brand of Tudor Mint has been sold to the group Xystos. Xystos is known for its ranges of “Forever Friends” “John Beswick”, “Enchantica” and “Piggin” to name a few brands.

Back to Exquisite jewellery.


I have started to identify the ranges of jewellery. The most easy one is the Birthday range. Available in small and large sized brooches and having matching clip earrings, necklaces and rarer bracelets. The range is all hand painted enamel, so there are many tone varieties and slightly different colour combinations available

January – snowdrop
February – primrose
March – violets
April – iris
May – pansy
June – rose
July – fuchsia
August – poppy
September – cornflower
October – carnation
November – chrysanthemum
December – Christmas rose or hellebores Niger.

Below are some of the Birthday jewellery:

January - the snowdrop jewellery.

Enamel white and green floral brooch by Exquisite. This is the large version. It was not in very good condition when I brought it. So have re-enamelled it and is in my own collection.

February – the primrose above. March birthday jewellery – the purple viola brooch – this can be found in different color tone due to the enamel being hand painted. It was also available in a large and smaller size.
Vintage primrose brooch by Exquisite


Violet jewellery from March.
Purple violet brooch by Exquisite

This is the purple violet brooch by Exquisite. Ideal March birthday jewellery.

May jewellery the pansy.
Vintage pansy necklace by Exquisite
Necklaces were a little rarer to find than brooches. This brightly enamelled pansy necklace by Exquisite made a superb present for someone born in May.

The Fuchsia jewellery for July. The large version is first, followed by the smaller one.
Large Fuchsia brooch by Exquisite

Small Fuchsia brooch by Exquisite

The Exquisite jewellery designers were said to be based in Paris – some of their 1960s pieces do have a look of a designer with European flare. But most of the jewellery appears to me to be very British and much of the jewellery was fashioned to the flora of the UK.

Below are the photographs of Exquisite jewellery we have found.

Unsigned Exquisite jewellery:
amber glass brooch by Exquisite

The amber glass brooch can be found both signed and unsigned. Large faceted unfoiled glass stone catches the light.



This brooch is signed. Similar to the amber glass brooch this has a pale green colouring.

Other brooches the same are signed and it comes in a variety of coloured glass. I believe there are matching earrings also made.

Signed Exquisite jewellery – Abalone brooches and pendant necklaces circa late sixties to seventies.
Diamond shaped abalone necklace Exquisite

Oval shaped abalone necklace by Exquisite

Oval abalone brooch by Exquisite

ornate abalone brooch by Exquisite

Silver ornate abalone brooch by Exquisite

Square abalone brooch by Exquisite


Abalone with the simple silver polished edging that was very modern appeared in the late sixties and seventies and was available in brooches, necklaces, scarf clips and rings.

Here are a selection of more Exquisite jewellery that we have sourced past and present. 
Pale blue Art Glass brooch by Exquisite

Pale blue Art Glass brooch by Exquisite 2

Sapphire blue glass necklace by Exquisite

Blue swirl brooch by Exquisite

Brown swirl brooch by Exquisite

Copper ivy leaf brooch by Exquisite

Cupid cameo brooch by Exquisite

Folding leaf brooch by Exquisite

Golden enamel leaf necklace by Exquisite

Faux jade carved brooch by Exquisite

linked vintage leaf necklace by Exquisite

Black Hematite pendant by Exquisite

Holly enamelled vintage clip earrings by Exquisite

Large gold plated rose brooch by Exquisite

Exquisite loved their conker jewellery and it came in all sorts of finishes.
enamel conker brooch by Exquisite


Now this glasses brooch is a classic made by WAP Watson and found with the Exquisite signature, the Mirella signature and also unsigned. Also will be in different finishes. this one has tiny faux pearl and turquoise bead decoration. The problem with this finish is that the small turquoise or pearl beads are often missing now. Here are two different glasses brooches. One has a single missing bead. 
Glasses brooch by Exquisite

Glasses spectacle brooch by Exquisite

It must have been very popular as I still find this spectacle brooch which is so sixties for sale. 

Art Glass cross pendant necklace by Exquisite

Art Glass cross pendant in brown by Exquisite


The above cross Exquisite necklaces were in Art Glass both different colours. one found in green and the other brown – rare to find. May have been a proto type or made in a small number. 

As usual we will be adding to these blogs as we photograph more fabulous Exquisite jewellery to showcase. We have much more Exquisite jewellery to show. But as there is so much. have a look at our other blog posts on here.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post I have a necklace from my grandma with the Exquisite name on it and I have wanted to find out more about it. It's different very different to what I have seen online so I'm very interested to find out more about it

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  2. Hi thank you for this post, I have four animal ornaments that look like your donkey one however the box mine are in say the Pegasus collection and two of the collection are stamped with W.A.P.W the other two are unmarked. Please if you can, can you tell me a little more about these as I can’t find them anywhere and now know at least two of them are Walter Watson design
    Please help if you can

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. H, Unfortunately I know very little about the WAP Watson gift range. The donkey's above are unmarked. So if they hadn't been in a box. I would not have known anything about them. Hopefully someone will see this post and comment. Regards Sue

      Delete
  3. Dear Sue, thank you so much for this article! I was so interested in the history of Mirella brand, but couldn't find any information about it. Appreciate it! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete

About Me

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Solihull, West Midlands, United Kingdom
I preserve the past. Researching family and local history. Finding about mine and other people's ancestors, is just one of my passions. I also love vintage costume jewellery made here in the UK. I write about my finds and like to research.