In the second half of the 19th century, Great Britain rose to become the leading industrial nation. In the ever-growing domestic market of Europe, many nations tried to catch up with this success and copied British production processes and products. This included Germany, which was very successful in supplying the British market, especially with metal goods such as scissors and knives made of low-grade cast iron, which copied British products from the Sheffield industrial region. The British products made of higher quality steel were superior in quality to the German ones, but the price pressure of the cheaper goods from Germany massively complicated sales.

To protect the domestic economy from continental European “plagiarism,” the British government introduced mandatory labeling for imported goods with the Merchandise Marks Act in 1887. In 1891, the “Madrid Agreement on the Suppression of False Indications of Origin on Goods” came into force, which numerous European countries ratified, thus committing themselves to clear indications of origin.

From branding to seal of quality: Made in Germany

But the British plan to force German and other products off the market by making labelling compulsory failed. German industry made up for the qualitative competitive disadvantages by the end of the 19th century. The designation of origin “Made in Germany,” which was actually intended as a branding device, quickly advanced to become a seal of quality, since German products offered excellent value for money with, in the meantime, significantly improved quality. Confidence in German products grew and, via exports, ensured strong growth of the German economy at the turn of the century. After the great collapse at the end of the Second World War, the so-called economic miracle in Germany ensured an even greater upswing. In today’s globalized world economy, Made in Germany is synonymous with design and production of the best possible quality.

Jewellery and watches Made in Germany

Especially with jewellery a very similar development can be observed, with the difference that German export jewellery from Pforzheim and other regions, but also the watches from the large centers in the Black Forest and in Glashütte had a good reputation regarding their quality. The production from noble materials such as steel and precious metals had already been introduced from the 18th century and was refined accordingly in the emerging industrialization. The watches from Glashütte, for example, had for a long time a better reputation in terms of quality than the watches from Switzerland, but the Swiss could offer lower prices in the first phase of industrialization. Jewellery, despite good quality, was also available in cheap from Germany, especially due to the production technology for so-called hollowware.

Even after the Second World War, production from Germany quickly rose again to its former strength; Pforzheim, for example, was already the world capital of jewellery production again in 1953, after the city had been completely destroyed by an Allied bombing raid in 1945. But the cheaper production methods in faraway countries massively damaged the offer from Germany, so that jewellery and watches Made in Germany are today rather in the high-priced segment, where they occupy a leading position in the world market.


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