John Emes was apprenticed in 1778 to William Woollett, goldsmith and engraver and obtained his freedom of the Goldsmiths' Company in 1796. In the same year he entered in partnership with Henry Chawner registering their mark "HC over IE" as 'Plate Workers' at Amen Corner on 27 August 1796. Soon after, owing to semi-retirement of Henry Chawner, the business was mostly managed by John Emes. On 10 January 1798, he registered his own mark and the dissolution of the partnership. John Emes continued to work at Amen Corner until his death in 1808.
His work, mostly tea and coffee service, shows a taste for elegant design and fine finish. After the death of John Emes the business was continued by his widow Rebecca Emes who, on 30 June 1808, entered a mark with William Emes (brother of John Emes and his executor acting by 'Virtue of a Power of Attorney'). This mark, "RE over WE", lasted only a few months and Rebecca Emes formed a new partnership with Edward Barnard, leading journeyman of her late husband. New marks were entered on 14 October 1808 (RE over EB into a quatrefoil). The address was Amen Corner, Paternoster Row. Other similar marks were entered in 1818, 1821 and 1825.
The firm was one of the largest working in their period with wide connections in the trade (they supplied plate to Rundell, Bridge and Rundell and to Cattle and Barber of York). The partnership lasted until the death of Rebecca Emes in 1828. The business was continued by Edward Barnard and his three sons.