The company was founded in 1934, as the British Magnesium (Elektronmetal) Ltd. and in 1935, Magnesium Elektron Ltd was formed as a joint venture between ICI (48%), I.G. Farbenindustrie (30%) and F.A. Hughes & Co (22%). It started by producing Elektron or Elektronmetall, under license, first developed in 1908 by Gustav Pistor and Wilhelm Moschel at the Bitterfeld works of Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron (CFGE or CFG), whose HQ was in Griesheim am Main, Germany.
In 1936, the company opened a factory on Lumn's Lane at Clifton Junction, to the north west of Manchester to produce magnesium metal. During the Second World War, the company made an important contribution to the nation's war effort producing thousands of tons of magnesium metal alloys for the aircraft industry.
During the late 1940s, the company diversified into the production of zirconium and its compounds, and was acquired by the Distillers Company in 1951. Zirconium carbonate production commenced in 1956, to meet a growing demand from the paint, paper and textile industries.
The production of hafnium metal for use in Britain’s nuclear submarines began in 1958.