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Leviny, Ernõ (1818–1905)

by Attila Urmenyhazi

Ernest Leviny, by W. B. Latimer, c1897

Ernest Leviny, by W. B. Latimer, c1897

State Library of Victoria, H83.152/1

Ernõ (Ernest) Leviny was born at Szepes-Szombat (now Spisska Sobota of Slovakia) near the Tatra Mountains in 1818. He was ethnic Hungarian but a citizen of the Austrian Empire which then ruled Slovakia. To improve his skill as a silversmith he went to Paris in the early 1840s. In October 1846 he settled in London, opening a silversmith and jewellery business with a partner.

Although he lived in England while the Hungarian war for independence from Austria raged in 1948-49, his heart was with his compatriot revolutionaries. After the collapse of the revolutionary war and capitulation, Hungarian exiles began to arrive in London. Leviny, already an established and well-to-do businessman there, befriended them.

In 1853 he sailed to Australia, bringing with him machinery for gold digging, as well as four hired labourers. The men, however, defected when the ship reached Adelaide, and Leviny continued his journey to Melbourne on his own. It appears that he went almost straight to Castlemaine where he began working, often with the help of hired men, on the goldfields. He was successful and was able to combine mining with his silver and goldsmithing work as well as his jewellery and watchmaking business. He lived in Castlemaine until his death in 1905 at the age of eighty-seven. During his half century there he completed many outstanding pieces of artistic gold and silver work and won numerous distinctions and medals in various colonial exhibitions as well as at the London International Exhibition of 1862.

Leviny easily gathered friends and admirers. He had set standards of excellence in his craft to the extent that some pieces of his silverwork are held by the National Gallery of Victoria. An elegant mansion built over a good location house was his home at 42 Hunter Street, Castlemaine. It has a wide courtyard reminiscent of old Hungarian country houses and sports not only the typically green Hungarian shutters on its windows, but a wistful name on the gate: "Buda". This mansion is now heritage listed under the care of the National Trust of Australia.

Original publication

  • unpublished, 2011

Other Obituaries for Ernõ Leviny

Additional Resources

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Attila Urmenyhazi, 'Leviny, Ernõ (1818–1905)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/leviny-erno-14135/text25145, accessed 19 September 2017.

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