More than 250 years ago, in 1767, Margrave Karl Friedrich von Baden laid the foundation stone for the jewellery industry in Pforzheim. He allowed the Frenchman Jean Francois Autran to set up a pocket watch factory, and in the same year he expanded it into a jewellery and steel goods factory. Shortly after the establishment of the watch and jewellery factory, the new industry flourished. Just one year later, the world’s first vocational school for jewellery production was established (as a drawing school). Pforzheim was soon respectfully referred to abroad as “Little Geneva,” because the city supplied jewellery to foreign countries near and far after a rapid boom.
In 1913, with a population of only 75,000, Pforzheim employed a total of 37,500 people in the jewellery and watchmaking industry. When an Allied bombing raid completely destroyed Pforzheim overnight on February 23, 1945, the centuries-old jewellery industry also came to a complete standstill. But after the war, Pforzheim was rebuilt. By 1953, Pforzheim was once again the world’s main supplier of jewellery and silverware.
To this day, about 70% of the turnover of the German jewellery industry is generated in Pforzheim. The former drawing school (now the Goldsmith with Watchmaker School Pforzheim) enjoys a high reputation in the industry.
In the 1960s and 1970s, competition from low-wage countries and the so-called quartz crisis in watches began to take their toll on the industry to some extent. But many Pforzheim family entrepreneurs with a focus on high-quality genuine jewellery defied the crises and keep the city’s two hundred and fifty-year-old tradition alive. Much here still revolves around gold and jewellery, and industries for medical technology and other precision products have evolved from the traditional jewellery and watchmaking industries.
Pforzheim displays its industrial history in the city’s jewellery museum and technical museum. The Federal Association of the industry (German Association of Jewellery, Watches, Clocks & Supplying Industry) has its headquarters in the city’s traditional so-called “Industrial building”.
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