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George Richards Elkington

(1801—1865) electroplate manufacturer


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(b Birmingham, 17 Oct 1801; d Pool Park, Denbs, 22 Sept 1865). English silver manufacturer. In 1815 he was apprenticed to a small, family-owned silver manufacturing business in Birmingham, which he eventually inherited. The firm made spectacle-frames, snuff-boxes and silver-gilt ‘toys’ and bottle mounts. Between 1829 and 1836 he was in partnership with his cousin Henry Elkington (c. 1810-52), during a period of much interest in electrometallurgy. G. R. Elkington hired a metallurgist, Alexander Parkes, and patronized chemists in the attempt to develop the electrogilding and Electroplating of base metal articles for commercial production. From 1836 to 1838 he registered several patents and in 1840 took out a patent on an improved method of electroplating discovered by John Wright, a Birmingham surgeon. Elkington's electroplate, perfected by Parkes, revolutionized the manufacture of plated silver and by the late 1850s had superseded almost all of the trade in Sheffield plate. Elkington opened a new factory in 1840, and in 1842 a wealthy pen manufacturer, Josiah Mason (d 1859), joined the firm, which became Elkington, Mason & Co. until Mason's retirement in 1856 and Elkington & Co. thereafter. Determined to retain exclusive rights, Elkington bought others’ patents or hired his competitors and for large fees granted other firms, notably Christofle et Cie in France, licences to manufacture electroplate under his patent.

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From The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design.


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