ELKINGTON & CO

Founded in Birmingham in the 1830s by George Richard Elkington (1801-65) and his cousin Henry Elkington (1810-52), Elkington & Co became the largest and most successful silversmithing business in England in the 19th century, supplying the top end of the domestic market as well as the emerging hotel and travel trade. With the capital from other business partners, George and Henry Elkington exploited the development of the new manufacturing processes of electroplating (silver deposited on a base metal by the action of an electric current), electrogilding (gilding by use of electricity) and electrotyping (a form of electronic casting to form the whole object). By marketing electroplate as a cheaper substitute for silver and by selling the patents for all the new techniques, the Elkingtons revolutionised the silver and plating trades all over the world. By the 1860s, Elkington & Co employed about one thousand workers at their factory in Birmingham. They held Royal Warrants for Queen Victoria, King Edward VI, King George V, King Edward VIII and King George VI.

Directed after 1865 by Frederick Elkington, one of George's two sons who had entered the family business in the 1850s, the company prospered from the sale of plated goods while continuing to produce the sterling silver and objects of cloisonné and champlevé enamel work for which it was always highly respected. Because other British firms had ceased to make silver presentation pieces to exhibit at international exhibitions, only the Elkington firm represented the art of British silversmithing in Philadelphia at the

Founded in Birmingham in the 1830s by George Richard Elkington (1801-65) and his cousin Henry Elkington (1810-52), Elkington & Co became the largest and most successful silversmithing business in England in the 19th century, supplying the top end of the domestic market as well as the emerging hotel and travel trade. With the capital from other business partners, George and Henry Elkington exploited the development of the new manufacturing processes of electroplating (silver deposited on a base metal by the action of an electric current), electrogilding (gilding by use of electricity) and electrotyping (a form of electronic casting to form the whole object). By marketing electroplate as a cheaper substitute for silver and by selling the patents for all the new techniques, the Elkingtons revolutionised the silver and plating trades all over the world. By the 1860s, Elkington & Co employed about one thousand workers at their factory in Birmingham. They held Royal Warrants for Queen Victoria, King Edward VI, King George V, King Edward VIII and King George VI.

Directed after 1865 by Frederick Elkington, one of George's two sons who had entered the family business in the 1850s, the company prospered from the sale of plated goods while continuing to produce the sterling silver and objects of cloisonné and champlevé enamel work for which it was always highly respected. Because other British firms had ceased to make silver presentation pieces to exhibit at international exhibitions, only the Elkington firm represented the art of British silversmithing in Philadelphia at the

1876 Centennial Exhibition or in Paris at the 1878 Exposition Universelle. The company sought out distinguished artists from abroad to create exhibition masterpieces for them to enhance their prestige in the commercial sector. The choice of Renaissance and classical forms, often with repoussé embellishment, that dominated Elkington's silver production was to some extent dictated by the firm's French designers, including Emile Jeannest (1813-57), who joined Elkington about 1849, Léonard Morel-Ladeuil (1820-88), hired in 1859, and Albert Willms (active before 1848-about 1900), head of the design department from the 1860s until the end of the century. works by Elkington & Co can be found in the collections in the Royal Collection, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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