Portrait by Andy Pilsbury
Co-founded in 1887 by Arthur Alabaster and Thomas Wilson, Alabaster & Wilson was a prestigious jewellery company that specialised in manufacturing all types of jewellery and particularly brooches. Based in a factory at 9-11 Legge Lane in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, the family company grew to become an established leader in the field of fine jewellery.
Although qualified as a French teacher, Stephen joined his family manufacturing jewellery company, Alabaster & Wilson Ltd, in 1975. Working alongside his father, uncle, brother and sister, he spent his first two years at the company in both the workshop and the office whilst also studying gemmology and diamond grading at the School of Jewellery, with his main role eventually being in sales and administration. In 1985, he became the joint director of the company, along with his brother Paul and sister Wendy. Despite witnessing the growth of mechanisation and imports within the Jewellery Quarter, Stephen recalls the way his family business was able to survive due to their focus on handmade jewellery. In addition to recalling the business’ education links with institutions like Birmingham City University, Steve fondly remembers the company producing various commissions for presentation to members of the Royal Family, such as a diamond set racehorse brooch for the Queen’s 90th birthday.
– Stephen Alabaster
We tended to pride ourselves very much on handmaking jewellery, even where we cast or stamped parts, we still tended to put a lot of hand work into those pieces to make them that little bit special. That did keep us separate, I think, in many ways from much of the imported jewellery.
Listen to Stephen
Stephen Alabaster discusses visiting Alabaster & Wilson as a child
Listen to Stephen
Stephen discusses the quality of Alabaster & Wilson brooches