Craft - Technology - Innovation
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At Elkington & Co., Sheffield, England we work in the hand-made tradition, where our team of craftsmen and woman continue to practice a broad range of traditional silversmithing techniques.

As in our past, we look firmly to the future. Our success depends on the research and application of the most current technologies; continuing our tradition of innovation

Lost Wax

We have been casting precious metals for almost two centuries. Our master casters continue to practice this ancient technique casting highly detailed jewellery components and larger scale pieces.

The Lost wax process, dates back to the Chalcolithic Age, the oldest examples ( 3700BC ) are from the Near East, most notably the Cave of the Treasure in southern Israel. We particularly admire the incredible Benin Bronzes from the Ebo people of West Africa.

The process involves creating a wax model from which a mould is cast to create a negative. At Elkington & Co. we use a wonderful silicon similar in colour to pink Onyx. Our moulds are catalogued and we return to them year after year. Green molten wax is used to create perfect positives from the moulds.

The wax positives are then sprued to tree like structures providing definitive paths for the molten silver. These wax trees are covered in plaster and heated in a ‘burnout’ process where the wax is released providing precise voids into which the molten metal is poured.

We’re proud to ensure the continuation of this meticulous craft here in Sheffield.

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Chasing
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Metal chasing or Repoussé is an illustrative technique practised by highly skilled craftsmen. The process is little changed and demands a certain artistic temperament from our team.

Chasing found its inspired voice in the Middle East, having first emerged there in the third century BC. It was widely use to add expressive, cultural value to gold, silver copper and brass pieces.

Exploiting the plasticity of metals, direct contact between tool and material allows the craftsman to produce forms and shapes without the need for subtraction, providing the ability to express a true narrative in the technique itself. We have an archive of chasing tools, each one imbuing a unique texture and finish to the metal.

We love the chasing work from the the Arts & Crafts movement; this period in which English craft achieved a wonderful naturalistic balance between technique, narrative and message.

Spinning

Spinning is a craft technique that delivers and instant sense of wonder similar in nature to the art of glass blowing. In our workshops a room is dedicated to the technique - filled with hundreds of formed parts, some made of wood, some of metal and some of nylon for more immediate experimentation.

The first pictorial reference to spinning can be found in the fourth century tomb of the Pharaoh Petosiris; it features an illustration of two men operating and ancient lathe. The invention of continuous pedal movement in the Middle Ages eventually delivered the speed and precision for the exquisitely spun components the technique is associated with.

Spinning requires brut force and serious concentration. The process starts by mounting a form to a drive section on a lathe, a disk of the desired element is clamped against the form and they are simultaneously rotated at high velocity. Force is locally applied to the metal disk using a series of levered tools resulting in axially symmetric, concave and convex shapes.

During the Industrial Revolution spinning really came into its own and the advent of motorised lathes afforded Elkington & Co. rapid and accurate production.

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Planishing
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Planishing, often referred to as hammering, is derived from the Latin planus for flat. It is a rare and wondrous craft, and at Elkington & Co. we’re lucky to have one of the last remaining Englishmen who practice this technique. His ability to create form out of flatness takes generations of skill and years of apprenticeship.

Planishing reached sophisticated heights during the middle ages due to the need for organic metal components required in the manufacture of armour. Each human body is unique, planishing offered every knight a bespoke metal fit.

Planishing starts with a sheet of metal from which a form is fashioned, this fashioning is executed with a planishing panel hammer where the artisan hammers the metal against a shaped surface called a stake or anvil, or against various hand held shapes called dollies. The shape of the anvil informs the desired form. This is a complex, labour intensive process, each blow of the hammer resulting in a considered outcome.

The tangent vases designed by Christopher Jenner are some of the most complex planishing we’ve attempted, their extruded shapes shift from circular to square pushing the potential of the technique to the limit. The results speak for themselves.

Smithing

Smithing is where our craftsman and woman unite disparate components into seamless expressions of their craft. A broad set of skills and tools is required for excellence in ‘smithing’.

Our ambition at Elkington & Co. is to support a new generation of silversmiths in Sheffield. Providing a platform for young craftsman to once again demonstrate the talents of their forefathers, crafting a new vision in functional contemporary silverware.

The guilds of Silversmiths have existed since Roman times, their tradition was to secure the skills of their trade for future generations, most especially via the tradition of apprenticeships. This tradition upheld the quality of and consistency of the craft.

In the United Kingdom the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths received a royal charter in 1327, however it is believed the tradition dates back to well before the 11th century.

Traditionally smithing techniques tended to be figurative in nature, where a layering of elements, one over the other provides the necessary connections to completing a piece.

In the new collections designed by Christopher Jenner he encouraged our craftsman to challenge the very nature of their tradition, to lay bare the connections, and to strive for seamless relationships where there was nowhere to hide.

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Buffing
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Every one of our pieces passes through this process which removes irregularities in preparations for plating or polishing. As with any fine handwork, the devil is in the detail; buffing allows us to ‘clean’ our pieces from surface impurities resulting from brazing work, running solder and material meteors.

At Elkington & Co. we invest an inordinate amount of time buffing. It’s hard intensive work, requiring alert skill and a deft hand. Our technique, unique to Sheffield is referred to as sand buffing. A mixture of oil and pumice stone is used as an abrasive medium repeatedly ‘thrown’ onto the buffing wheel or ‘mop’ provide the finish that is the basis of Elkington & Co’s unique silver quality .

Plating process

Elkington & Co. patented the silver plating process in 1838.

It was a key innovation of the industrial revolution and paved the way for the success of our brand and our positioning as the worlds leader in the manufacture of silverware. We believe our technique differs from others in its softer English tone, imparting a smoother touch and refined lustre.

The process called ‘silver plate’ is an ingenious technique permitting the finest layering of one metal onto another. Firstly we clean the surface of all contaminants to achieve a uniform bonding. Once cleaned, the piece is rinsed and attached to a suspension frame via a copper wire, this wire creates an electrical current through the piece. The support frame is connected to a negative terminal, while the piece is connected to a positive terminal. The apparatus is suspended in a water through which a DC current of up to 6 volts travels, dissolving the plating metal and attaching itself uniformly across to the charged item.

Silver plating was both a revolutionary process and the source of our success, it affords us immense creative potential and an ability to make exceptionally beautiful silverware.

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Polishing
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Polishing is the final and fundamental process in our manufacture at Elkington & Co. The quality of our ‘polish’ is a reflection of the dedication and care we’ve taken throughout the production of each one of our pieces.

Unlike buffing we employ much softer, more delicate materials during our final polish. The English Swansdown mop delivers a particularly luminous lustre as it teases out and opens up the molecular pores of the silver.

Finished pieces are reflective, they bounce light, radiate sparkle and glimmer depending on their position, arrangement and exposure to light.