George Kyriakides migrated to Melbourne from Cyprus in 1948. He established a well-known silversmith and jewellery company Saracen in Lygon Street Carlton from 1952 to 1974.
George Kyriakides was born as Georghios Kyriackou in 1921 in Larnaca, on the southern coast of Cyprus. His family were primarily livestock farmers and were also skilled silversmiths.
In his early years, George learned the art of silversmithing from his father Petrou Kyriackou, and was able to supplement the family income through bartering these goods. The economy in Cyprus during this time was at a low point and barter was the most efficient way to trade for goods. The silverware that the Kyriackou family made was highly sought after.
George was in the service of the British Army for just under six years, and fought in World War II with the allied forces. He was captured as a prisoner of war in Italy, but escaped to Switzerland to be repatriated back to Cyprus at the conclusion of the war.
Prior to leaving Cyprus, George officially changed his name to George Kyriakides, as these were the common names that he was known under and would continue to use on arrival in Australia. George migrated to Australia at the age of 26, arriving in Melbourne on New Year's Day, 1948. He knew of other people who had migrated to Australia from his village, and had heard that it was a good place to start a new life, away from the deflated economy of Cyprus. He is listed on the passenger lists from 1949 as single, and as a 'farmer', with no mention of his skills as a silversmith.
George did not know a single soul in Melbourne and spent his first night begging lodging from the Cypriot Club on Lonsdale Street. George consequently became a member of the Cypriot Club and continued to participate in club activities. It was at this club George would make friendships that would last well into his lifetime.
Through these friendships, George met his future wife, Australian-born Silvia Sarandis. She worked behind the cash register for her parents at the Athenaeum Coffee shop on Collins Street, while studying music at the Melbourne Conservatorium for Music. The two were married on the 15 May 1949, and lived with Silvia's parents in Albert Park for a short time. They would have two children who grew up in the diverse community of Carlton.
After his arrival in Melbourne, George gained employment as a silversmith working for the established silverware company 'Pitcher Products'. This was a well-known company with a long history stretching back to the 1920s. George lasted two years in this role before he decided that working for himself would serve him and his temperament better.
The Saracen Plate Company was established in 1952, in a small residential garage in Malvern. Once the company was solvent, George purchased the site at 152 Lygon Street, Carlton and proceeded to demolish and rebuild a new workshop and residence that fitted his growing business and family needs. The Saracen Plate Company became a successful wholesale silver manufacturing business from the 1950s until the mid-1970s. They produced silver-plated goblet sets, ice buckets, trays, jugs and trophies, all specifically made in the 'Sheffield Reproduction' style. The Lygon Street business flourished and their wholesale clients included large-scale department stores such as Myer, Dunklings and Prouds.
George would go on to sell the Saracen Plate Company in the mid-1970s, due to the difficulties in obtaining pure metals and the time it took to import silver from overseas. After the sale of Saracen Plate Company, George continued to work with precious metals. He transitioned to jewellery manufacture and registered the new business as G. K. Jewellery in 1978. He continued trading under this name until his retirement. Much of the work produced under G.K. Jewellery was for wholesale orders from his catalogues, but George accepted private commissions from the Greek and Cypriot community for more traditional and personalised pieces.
George had a large number of employees as both Saracen Plate Company and G. K. Jewellery and contributed in many ways to the Carlton community. He was the President of the Rathdowne Street Primary School Board, and was well known as a staunch Carlton Football Club supporter. It was not uncommon to see George and friends crammed into a yellow Vanguard sedan on their way to an AFL match, or sitting at the Italian Coffee shop making sure the neighbourhood boys were treating his daughter right. He had connections with the burgeoning artistic community in the area, as evidenced with the co-creation of the Saracen Plate Company logo with Myra Skipper, later of Monsalvat.
George continued to give to his community until well into his retirement. He became known for his generous jewellery donations to fundraising events in support of organisations such as the Box Hill Hospital, Agapi Aged Care and Fronditha Care. His archive is filled with personalised letters of gratitude and certificates of appreciation.