16 August 2018

Sensational Serveware From Around The World

Russian Pan -Slavic Solid Silver and Enamel Caviar Spoon, c1878. Available at Pushkin Antiques  

Holding a summer soiree? Or just enjoying long languid lunches in the garden? It's a great time to invest in serveware - and buying antiques is always much more fun (not to mention a great investment...) This week we're taking a look at sensational serveware from around the world, to suit every occasion and every taste.

Grays prides itself on it's eclecticism, so you will find options for a full French silver service alongside the more homely delights of English country-house creamware. A large Middle-Eastern or Spanish Moorish style serving bowl is a fabulous way to serve up summer peaches, pears and plums.

And of course we haven't forgotten the beverages ! German claret jugs, American server jugs, even Japanese Sake bowls, you'll find them all here .

We've picked out some of our special favourites below, with hundreds more possibilities awaiting discovery in store...
Dutch Delft Serving Bowl, c17th Century. Available at Guest and Gray

Harrods English Silver Egg Cup and Spoon, c1910. Available at Jack Podlewski

English Davenport Botanical Tazza, c1810-1820. Available at Guest and Gray 

American Silver Overlay Glass Jug c1900. Available at Evonne Antiques 

Japanese Lacquer Sakazuki (Sake) Bowl, One of a 7 Piece Set. Meiji Period. Available at Anita Gray 
German Solid Silver Travelling Cutlery Set. c.1860. Available at Pushkin Antiques 
Valencian Hispano- Moresque Lustre bowl. 17th Century. Available at Guest and Gray

9 August 2018

Nigel Norman: I am fussy about what I buy. It has to be quality

Nigel Norman specialises in sporting items and cufflinks. He deals in fine jewellery from the eighteenth century to the nineteen seventies with particular emphasis in French and English manufacture. With his father, he owned Harvey and Gore in St.James’, Piccadilly. Fourteen years ago Nigel moved into Grays Antiques.

You are a second generation antique jewellery dealer, how would you say you have differentiated your business from the original one in Piccadilly?
I joined my father’s antique jewellery business in 1979 and he taught me the trade. Then in many ways, I followed on from there. At my father’s, we had very similar things to what I sell now. It is a very specialised and niche market, but I say, if you buy something you like, someone else is going to like it and want to buy it too.

What type of comments do people make about your collection?
They say, you have very lovely things. It is because, I am fussy about what I buy. It has to be quality. You buy things that you like yourself. People know me, and they bring items to me which are rather rare. I care about quality, condition and wearability.

Your collection of fine jewellery has a very distinct style. How would you describe it?
My priority is good quality. But the piece has to be artistically made as well, and it has to be wearable, understated, not ostentatious looking. I prefer buying pieces that are special but don’t necessarily look valuable. I like to be discreet. And customers come back to me.

I notice you have a particularly high concentration of French jewellery.
Yes, that’s right. I really love French jewellery. They are exquisite in terms of the quality of the design and superb in craftsmanship. I often go to Paris to buy. And I bring back pieces that are unique. My favourite is this silver and gold mounted nineteenth century diamante set brooch, shaped in an openwork bow with detachable pin. It encapsulates a whole era in imagination and design with absolute splendour. And in addition, of course, it has a very high inherent value with old-cut brilliant diamonds that total thirteen carats in weight.

What qualities are you looking for when buying antique jewellery?
I like artistry in manufacture and design, and I am always on the lookout for eighteenth century coloured stone pieces. They are very rare to find in good condition. A lot of jewellery today is following an earlier style. The difference is in the details.

What are your personal thoughts about the antique trade?
I was brought up in this business and I love it because it is my heritage. But we have to acknowledge that it is also a risky business, there are lots of ups and downs. And you tie up a lot of capital. In the end, however, you can only rely on your own specialised knowledge.

19th Century French Double Tied Diamond Set, Fine Quality Bow Brooch

Bangle 18 karat Gold French Lapis Lazuli and Diamond Half Hoop, c1910

Chaumet of Paris Golfing Brooch with Lapis Lazuli and Malachite c1960

Bracelet, 18 Carat Gold Sapphire and Diamond Trefoils in Original Case, 19th Century

Platinum & Diamond Set Bow Brooch, English c1920

Cartier 18k Gold and Coloured Stone Baton Cufflinks

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou.

2 August 2018

Finishing Touch: Watching and Listening - You Learn a Lot

Dianne's advice to watch and listen sounds like a spy thriller, but is in fact what she says is the best way to learn about antiques. Dianne is second generation antique dealer, prime vendeuse of Finishing Touch; A family business. She shares a unit with Nigel Norman on the ground floor at Grays.

Finishing Touch Jewellery Limited has been trading from Grays for about twenty-eight years, moving here from Camden Passage. Because of her wealth in experience and knowledge, I've come to find out some inside information.

We are all intrigued to learn, how do dealers go about choosing what they buy for their customers?
I buy things that have character. I’m often drawn towards what I like, but I don’t always purchase that way, I do buy things that speak to me. People have different expectations; Age, character, history. They can be so far apart but they fall into line. The construction, the cut and complimenting gemstones are important. Sometimes people come in with a set idea of what an engagement ring should look like. But when they try it on they find that they do not like the chosen style on them. I always then give them the advice to try lots of different styles to see what suits them. After all, this important piece of jewellery is to last a lifetime. I tell them “imagine you are buying shoes - you look down and think hmmm, not sure about these. You look in a mirror moving your foot around - getting the view that others see when on you”. I tell them, "have a look at yourself in the mirror"; They have to see it through the reflection, I always allow them to take a picture if they are still undecided.

Do you find that there is a lot of repetition in the antique trade?
Yes sometimes there’s repetition. Today there is a lot of modern jewellery that has been made to look antique, but it is modern. It is almost identical in looks and feel, but to the trained eye you can see it has been cast.

What if I came to you - I am not a millionaire – and I wanted to buy a special piece that is not machine made with excellent craftsmanship and good quality stone? How would you advise me?
I would say that you have to buy a unique piece, something different that is hard to be copied. A piece of that has been made around the size of the stone. This would make it a unique piece as made by a craftsman in a one off design. For example if you were to choose an amethyst that weighed 45 carats, a similar amethyst of the same weight will not necessarily carry exactly the same measurements, cut, colour strength or clarity. Therefore the frame made to display the gem would be unique to that stone.

How did you get involved in the antique jewellery business?
Finishing Touch is a Jewellery business that is owned by my husband’s mother. When we were first together, I remember my mother-in-law coming home from her round the world buying trips. She would come back with all sorts of amazing jewellery. I was like a child in a sweet shop. I was so intrigued, I started to sell items to friends and work colleagues, mainly earrings and engagement rings. People then would ask me to help them match their wedding ring with their engagement ring. When I had my children I went to a jewellery show with my mother in law and I decided to buy a sample set of wedding bands. I then began a ‘In your own home” business of selling them - I would visit clients in the comfort of their own home. In 2014 we opened a second shop in Hatton Garden. In December 2016 I closed the Hatton Garden shop and came to Grays where we were located on the lower ground floor. In June, I moved to the ground floor to share with Nigel Norman. I am open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays, at other times by appointment.

How would you describe the character of your business?
We have quite a following of customers from all over the world, dealers from Hong-Kong, America and Europe. We have a large range of Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco and modern jewellery. I have learnt by watching, listening and asking questions. During my time in Hatton Garden I was able to have hands on experience with a diamond supplier to learn how to identify the colour, cut, clarity of diamonds.

Out of all this wonderful collection of jewellery what would you pick for yourself?
I love aquamarines and I love the necklace that I am wearing. It is a simple diamond necklace, but it is very understated, I like it because it is an everyday necklace that doesn’t scream out “diamonds”. I love diamonds because of their extraordinary vibrancy.

Contemporary Amethyst and Diamond Pendant

Etruscan style Victorian Bangle with Turquoise 

French Dress ring Boasting two centre stones estimated weight 3.0cts

Navette Diamond Dress Ring 

c1940 Emerald and Diamond bracelet

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou.

27 July 2018

Love & Death : The Intriguing World of Georgian Memento Jewellery

We take a closer look at the fascinating world of Georgian Memento Jewellery...

Original Georgian Eye Miniature of an Eye in Dark Clouds: Symbolic of Mourning. c.1800 Available at Rowan & Rowan

What makes Memento Jewellery of the Georgian period unique is that it marks a distinct departure from the 'Memento mori' styles of the previou era. It is far more personal, playing with the whimsical and the esoteric: without the heavy gothicism of later Victorian pieces.

In the Elizabethan and Jacobean era's, jewellery associated with death and mourning often took the form of taunting skulls and skeletons and was usually overtly macabre. It's purpose was to remind the wearer and the viewer of the inevitability of death and the urgent need for the living to consider the fates of their immortal souls. 

Following the public execution of Charles I in 1649, commemorative 'mourning' jewellery bearing the face of the deposed King began to circulate among those with royalist sympathies. It was a way to show political support for the monarchy and it's later restoration, but also a way to deal with personal grief and a sense of loss. 

Enamel Portrait of Charles I on Fine Gold and Diamond Mount c1640-80. Available at Charlotte Sayers

The burgeoning middle classes of the Georgian era adapted this tradition by commissioning jewellery bearing the likeness of friends and family to mourn those who had died - or to commemorate relationships between the living. Elizabethan aristocrats had exchanged portrait miniatures, but only in the eighteenth century did the practice become common among ordinary people. 

Georgian pieces have a soft romantic air, created by the delicate interweaving of metals and gemstones. The colour black is rarely dominant, with soft pastels and pale natural colours more commonly used. White enamel would often be used to remember a young unmarried woman, and seed pearls for the death of a child. 

Curiously, the pieces associated with death have much the same character in terms of design as the pieces associated with romance. Eyes amid dark clouds commemorate lost loved ones, whilst eyes or lips amid bright clouds were more likely gifted from a living lover.

The aesthetic style of Georgian Memento Jewelry is in keeping with the romantic temperament of the age: which swept through all of the liberal arts from poetry to theatre. The development of euphemistic language amid mourning scenes such as 'gone to bliss'  or  'affection weeps, heaven rejoices' mark a distinct tonal departure from the blunt refrains of an earlier era: a legacy still very much felt in the mourning culture of the present day. 

We hope we've inspired you to take a look at pieces of Georgian memento jewellery with fresh eyes, and to start you off we've picked out some of our favourite items now available from the dealers at Grays...

Georgian Betrothal Pendant Surrounded by Rubies. c.1740. Available at Charlotte Sayers

Lovers Lips Miniature c1790. available at Rowan & Rowan

Georgian Eye Miniature of a Male Eye Amid Dark Clouds. Available at Rowan & Rowan

Oval Miniature Oil on Copper of a Naval Officer c.1700. Available at A Douch

Gold Mourning Bracelet dated 1789. Gold and Seed Pearl. Available at Rowan & Rowan

20 July 2018

July's Birthstone: Ruby

If you're lucky and were born in July, ruby is your birthstone of the month.

One of the oldest sources of ruby 'the king of gems' is in what used to be called Burma (now Myanmar). Sourced in the Mogok River Valley, it provided much of the world's finest rubies for many centuries. These rubies exhibited the highly prized red to slightly purplish red color.

Whatever the source, ruby is by far one of the most popular and coveted precious gemstones in the world. Whether it's your birthstone or not, ruby makes a special gift for any occasion. Grays is abundant with the finest ruby jewellery, take a look at our top picks... 

1960s dress ring, set with natural untreated Burma rubies and diamonds. Available from Wimpole Antiques 

Art Deco ruby and diamond ring. Available from Elton Antique Jewellery

18ct gold Edwardian boat shaped ruby and diamond ring. Available from Elton Antique Jewellery 

Antique 14k yellow gold bracelet of heavy quality, set with six Burma ruby and rose-cut diamond motifs, c1900-10. Available from Nigel Norman

Openwork circular brooch set with brilliant cut diamonds, and three cabochon Burma rubies. Available from Nigel Norman

Victorian double serpent ring in 18ct gold set with old cut diamond and ruby eyes. Available from Wimpole Antiques

12 July 2018

Sheldon Shapiro: 'Jewellery is Like Engineering in Miniature...'

Sheldon Shapiro has been trading for over thirty years from Grays Antique Centre. Sheldon deals in Russian art, jewellery, silver, objets de vertu, and objets d’art including Fabergé. He has developed his own particular style with emphasis on high quality and intrinsic value. We caught up with him for an exclusive insight into his business..

A small sample of the fabulous jewels on offer at Shapiro & Co...

How did it all start for you?

We originated in Portobello Road in the late 1950s. I was a second generation dealer and when Grays Antiques opened in 1977 my father was offered a stall here. By then my father had a shop in the suburbs and he decided he wanted to stay where he was. He never came in. He established shops. So I took over and moved in. I thought I would try it for three months and make up my mind afterwards. I still haven’t decided yet. And it’s been 36 years. Quite a long time! But it’s such a great place. You just never bore of it.

Have you seen many changes during this time?

Grays is in a strategically placed location and that makes it a marvellous place to come and shop. We stopped exhibiting at Olympia, which we used to, but now we do it from Grays twice a year. Its position is an intricate element to the success of the market. And our success. It’s terrific. And because we offer such a wide range of merchandise you have collectors coming here from all over the world. It’s an Antique’s Fair in a building. And that’s why it works. We share the expenses and we all have a shop presence in central London. When people come to London, they come to Grays.

How would you describe your collection?

I specialize in fine jewellery, Russian works of art, rare and beautiful gemstones, objects vertu. The way we choose objects is very much dictated by our market. We are dictated by fashion, our collectors and what’s available, though you never fully grasp the market. That what is so wonderful about it. I like beautiful things. Pieces with history excite me and I love gemstones and gold boxes, fine precious items, things of quality.

What is your background and what would you say informs the way you choose items for your collection?

I grew up in the business as a child and learnt as I grew up. I was trained as an engineer. Jewellery is like engineering in miniature. My engineering skills really help me in my business. In communication, display, design and in projects, I have utilised my engineering skills over the years. My skills in design and display complement my business to compete in a sinking market. But we are rising above the norm. We have a presence in London and we sell on line. But our physical presence is our life blood because it offers the face to face element you need to feel things. We are selling man made things that are very personal. Jewellery is personal. Women need to feel things and need to see how things look on them.  You can sell cars and fridges on the internet. It’s fine. But we sell art objects and fine items that need the physical contact. Our clientele is very varied. We sell to professionals, tourists, collectors, private individuals, other specialists in fine objects and gems.

If you had to choose a piece in your collection that is special to you, which one would it be?

I would choose this English Art Deco 1910-1920s, platinum and old cut diamonds bracelet. It came from another dealer’s collection. Clean cut and intricate in style, it is a beautiful example of quality and craftsmanship. And typical of a bygone era, has everything going for it. It’s a piece of history.

English Art Deco 1910-1920s Platinum and old cut Diamond Bracelet

For more details on items available from this wonderful dealer, visit Shapiro & Co at Unit 380. You can also take a look at their website, or check out our top picks below...

Amethyst and Diamond Ring, c1970

Gold And Sapphire Cat Brooch, c1960

European 18ct Gold Bracelet c1950

Collectable Russian Miniature Pencil, Contemporary

Amaldine Garnet and Diamond Pendant, c1980

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou.

5 July 2018

ALFayez at Alfies Antiques

The Ground Floor entrance to ALFayez

Those of you who shopped in the Mews at Grays will be familiar with the collective of dealers trading in Middle Eastern Art, Antiques & Design. Friday 1 June 2018 saw Alfies Antique Market launch AlFayez, a new department showcasing antiquities and museum worthy pieces to textiles, ceramics and jewellery from more than 25 professional Middle Eastern antique dealers previously based in the Mews at Grays Antiques. These new shops occupy the whole of the lower-ground floor as well as a newly refurbished area of the ground floor at Alfies, to setup a new collective called AlFayez.

Spanning two floors and spread over 4,000 square feet, ALFayez boasts an architectural staircase, large sculpture of a Roc bird of Arabian Nights legend and a styled water feature.

Left: Large Roc bird sculpture | Right: Roc bird viewed from the ground floor entrance of ALFayez

A shop at AlFayez & the bottom half of the Roc bird sculpture in the background, on the lower ground floor

Dealers include Yaseen Oriental Ltd specialising in fine quality Oriental and Islamic antiques, M & D Arsin Carpets who provide cleaning and restoration services and also sell antique rugs, carpets and kilims, Bakhtar Art specialising in ancient beads, jewellery and textiles, and Garo Kürkman an expert in the field of Ottoman Empire era art and artifacts.

Turquoise at Yaseen Oriental Ltd

Antique hand made rugs at M & D Arsin Carpets

Textiles at Bakhtar Art

Chinese Kangxi period rose water sprinklers at Garo Kürkman

AlFayez will be unique as the UK’s largest permanent collection of Middle Eastern antiques and will provide the perfect meeting of East and West design.

Live music at the ALFayez grand opening

A grand opening party was held on the 21st of June, where exclusive guests, such as Westminster Council officials, local antique dealers and Antiques Trade Gazette members had the chance to peruse the stock whilst sipping bubbly.

Live music was provided on both floors - a lively band on the ground floor performed traditional Turkish music, with Gizem Altinordu on vocals,  Kostas Glynos (Kanun), Ercument Ibrahim (violin) and Baha Yetkin (oud). Whilst Garsaaidi (oudist), provided a more ambient feel to the lower ground.

Alfies' founder Bennie Gray with ALFayez dealer Faisal.

Guests at the launch party

Alfies dealers, Monica of Vincenzo Cafarella (left), and Emilia of Thirteen Interiors (middle) and friend

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