Corkscrews of Exceptional Quality.

Posted: 02/25/2013

Occasionally we come across a corkscrew of exceptional quality, one that stands out from other examples. Often these pieces have a bone or ivory handle along with a nickel plated finish, below is such an example.



This piece is an English Ratchet corkscrew, patented by Alfred Vincent Newton, who was a Mechanical Draughtsman, from Middlesex. Newton was granted patent protection for his corkscrew design on the 23rd September 1856. The ratchet mechanism allows the user to insert the worm into the cork without removing the hand from the corkscrew or adjusting the grip. This makes operating the corkscrew easier.

A bone handle was obviously an expensive addition as was the process of nickel plating, when compared to finishing an item with a copper wash. Generally the cost of applying nickel plate to a corkscrew in the mid nineteenth century was as much as the cost of manufacturing the corkscrews themselves!! Thus the majority of corkscrews were finished with copper wash, this being a much cheaper process.

The actual development of plating began in the early 1800s when electrochemical piles were developed that could pump current through wires. This innovation found little application initially, but in 1837 G. Bird described electrodeposition of nickel chloride or sulphate on platinum. This process resulted in a thin crust of nickel on the platinum substrate, and soon after other European experiments proved nickel chloride, nitrate and nickel ammonium sulphate were also appropriate for nickel plating for processes. The nickel ammonium sulphate, or double nickel salts, solution became industry standard for the next seventy years in commercial products. 

George Elkington and Henry Elkington were awarded the first patents for electroplating in 1840.  These two then founded the electroplating industry in Birmingham from where it spread around the world. By the time Newtons corkscrew was manufactured it is obvious nickel plating had been completely mastered, this is proven by the plating we see on the early patented corkscrews such as the featured example, the plating is completely in tact on this piece as with many others of this period.





1 Comment(s)
ron smith - 15/05/2013

Alfred Vincent Newton was a patent agent who couldn't invent his way out of a paper bag! He invented absolutely nuthin'.

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