20 September 2018

London Fashion Week Special: Bring on the Bows !

Models walk the catwalk at London Fashion Week 2018 for Emilia Wickstead (Left) and Erdem (Right)

Last week at London Fashion Week we saw various re- inventions of the classic bow. We saw rebellious edged feminine designs in jewellery and big couture houses like Chanel, Garrard, Gucci and Tiffany’s providing their own twist on the trend.

The bow motif is associated with the Rococo period : a lady clad in bows and lace epitomises traditional feminine elegance. The Rococo bow was a faithful and enduring adornment of women’s dress as fashion moved from stiff and formal, to loose and playful. It's ubiquity disappeared somewhat following the French Revolution, possibly because of it's association with the frivolity and excesses of the Ancien Regime.

The bow made something of a fashion comeback in the Victorian era as a representation of romantic feeling, and as part of growing sentimental yearnings for a vanished past. A past of chivalry and courtly romance seemed a long way from the smoke and smog of the industrial revolution. Perhaps it is not too hard to imagine the humble bow as a badge of protection against a rapidly changing social landscape.

With advances in jewellery making techniques the bow developed in the Edwardian period into a more elaborate and intricate style inspired by lace making and silk trailing ribbons. Geometric or fluid designs appeared as signature jewellery and personalised pieces.

In the 20th century the bow motif became a perennial favourite. Bows are constantly re-introduced and re-invented as classic pieces worn in alternative and imaginative ways.

The overt association of the bow with the feminine and the frivolous is a playful concept for the modern designer : they may lean in to it's traditional connotations , or subvert them in new and exciting ways .

Want to buy in to the bow ? We've picked up some breathtaking beauties available now at Grays...

A Platinum Mounted Bow brooch of Openwork Lace Design, Set with Brilliant and Rose Cut Diamonds. English c.1910. Available at Nigel Norman Fine Jewels 

Carter & Sons Geometric Bow Clip in Yellow and Red Tone Gold. American c.1940. Available at Moira Fine Jewellery 

Shaded Blue and Pink Sapphire bow Brooch Set in White Gold. Available at Moira Fine Jewellery 
A Pair of Amethyst and Diamond Earrings Topped with Miniature Bows Set in Gold. Victorian c.1870
Available at Moira Fine Jewellery 
Blue Enamel and Seed Pearl Brooch set in White Gold. Victorian.
Available at C & B Gems 

Natural Diamond and Sapphire Bow Pendant. Edwardian Period.
Available at Wimpole Antiques 


                                        Written by Titika Malkogeorgou September 2018

13 September 2018

Headbands, Tiaras & Hair Jewellery : The Grays Way

Designers and stylists have declared 2018 the year of  head and hair adornment...it’s time to shake off any shyness and invest in dazzling hair jewellery:  diadems, tiaras, and yes- crowns!

A Model at the Dolce & Gabbana Ready-to-Wear Fall 2018 Catwalk Show 

Contemporary crowns and tiaras have a different significance to the traditional royal adornment. Queens, empresses, and princesses of course regularly wear tiaras at formal evening occasions but the symbolism of the crown itself is more complex than you might think.

As symbols of betrothal, crowns can be thought of similarly to a wedding band in that their circular structure is a visual reminder of eternity and everlasting love.

Historically, headbands and hair jewellery offered a no-holds-barred approach to show of wealth and power. A lavish display is no more noticeable than when draped around the wearers head and hair, so the medium has historically been a splendid opportunity for the aristocracy to show off.

Tiaras were often given as wedding gifts, or to celebrate marital milestones and anniversaries. They are traditionally worn around the head or on the forehead as circlet. Tiaras can be standalone pieces, or part of a ‘Parure’.

A Parure is a group of two, three or more matching pieces of jewellery, such as a brooch, or earrings, bracelets and a necklace. The pieces can be worn all at once, or interchangeably.

The Parure became the leading embellishment in the courts of Europe in the 18th century. The French lead the extraordinary fashion for Parure at the court of Louis XIV. His artisans are credited with the most imaginatively conceived and highly skilled jewellery production.

Whether you are after a full Parure or a more low key head and hair adornment ; you will find a fascinating wealth of options at Grays!

Take a look at some of our favourites below …

Mid-Victorian Silver , Gold and Diamond Tiara Crown. Available at Moira Fine Jewellery 

Antique Diamond and Feather Tiara c.1906. available at Moira Fine Jewellery 

Diamond Floral Spray Hair Clip c1840. Available at Michael Longmore 

French Floral Spray Diamond and Blue Enamel Clip c1850. Available at Bellum 

Edwardian Gold and Diamond Tiara. Available at D B Gems 

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou

6 September 2018

Travellers and Toddy Trees: A Vision of Colonial India

Guest & Gray are one of our most eclectic purveyors of fine antiques. Known primarily for their expertise in Chinese and European ceramics, their fascinating collection also holds a wealth of incredible works of art from around the world.

This week we're shining a spotlight on 14 Indian paintings on Mica (a transparent mineral resembling papyrus) dating from 19th century ...

'A Naatch, Girls Dancing before a Native of Rank', with seated figures at leisure, attendants, musicians and dancing girls all beneath a canopy in a palace courtyard

The Mica Paintings were originally part of a leather-bound volume produced by Indian artists for Europeans living and working in the sub-continent, particularly employees of the British East India Company. 

During the 19th Century The British Raj was at it's height of colonial power and influence, with historians estimating that up to 800,000 Britons resided during it's peak period. 

The paintings were produced by native Indian artists and so have some traditional elements of folk style, like the rich primary colours of native dyes and the expressive, almost geometric poses of the figures. These elements fuse with traditionally western modes of representation: note the focus on perspective, and the touches of classical style within the landscapes. 

The paintings are fascinating evidence of a hybrid culture at a very specific period in time. Whilst we may wish to draw conclusions about Indian traditions from the various scenes we see depicted here: we can never lose sight of the fact that they were produced for a western market. As such they may reveal more about how colonialists viewed India than India itself.

We've selected some of the most intriguing pieces from the collection below, the full 14 are available to view at Guest & Grays website.

 'The Hindoo Festival of the |Chut|', the foreground with figures carrying out rituals of holy bathing, accompanied by a crowd bearing baskets of prayer offerings along the riverbank

'A River Scene with Boats'

'A Dank Traveller', with four men carrying a figure in a litter, accompanied by a number of attendants

 'A Chouttaree, the Procession of an Offering Made to the Ganges on the Fourth Day after a Hindoo Marriage', the foreground with a procession of musicians on the left and a sword bearing figure leading a group of ladies on the right, with the walls and entrance to a palace in the background

'Toddy Trees and Female Patty Sellers' 

30 August 2018

Saul Greenstein: 'Every Diamond is Different...'

Fancy Yellow Diamond Heart- Shaped Ring set in 18ct White Gold. Contemporary. Available at Saul Greenstein

Saul Greenstein comes from a long line of jewellers, but he began trading independently after gaining his award from the Diamond Grading Association. For the last twelve years he has been trading at Grays, specialising in bridal jewellery: particularly diamonds.

We caught up with him for some insider tips on the antique jewellery business...

Saul, please tell us what is so special about diamonds?

Everybody wants them! They are collectable because they hold their value and each one is unique. Every diamond is different. Every diamond has a different clarity, weight and colour, and it has a different history.

We have yellow diamonds, pink diamonds and blue diamonds. Yellow diamonds are those that include nitrogen atoms. The atoms absorb blue light and reflect yellow hues. They are very glamorous and particularly popular because they are so uplifting.

We also have blue diamonds which are very special and very rare. Of course they have to be natural to be rare and be mined with their blue colour already present.

And pink diamonds are truly dazzling. They make extraordinary rings and pendants because they vary so much in hue and tone.

What type of jewellery do your customers like?

My customers are very discerning and I am very happy to chat with them and meet their requirements. That’s what selling face to face is all about. I love the selling side of things.

People come with an idea of what they want but it is a case of trying pieces on until the right piece jumps out.

A lot of my customers have classic taste, and like the Art Deco style. They follow trends and fashions but they tend to choose wearable timeless pieces that are beautiful and classic.

Could you choose for us one piece of jewellery that you are really fond of... ?

I would like to choose two very different pieces that are both fascinating in their own way. First would be this French lozenge shaped Carnelian and 18K gold 1940s bracelet. I like the geometric design and this bracelet has an architectural character in the way it is constructed. (Pictured below)

And then I want to choose this 1920s Art Deco bracelet from a private dealer in the States.  It is also geometric and just so evocative of the era. It’s platinum and it has at least 10 carats of very fine old cut diamonds. (Pictured below)

 Interviewed Tuesday 28th August 2018 by Titika Malkogeorgou

We've picked out some more of our favourite fabulous pieces available at Saul Greenstein below... 

Fire Opal and Diamond Cluster Earrings

Art Deco Style Diamond Chandelier Earrings 

Classic Chain Link Necklace with Crossbar Pendant

Citrine Dress Ring with Diamond Surround set in 18ct Gold 

23 August 2018

Our Summer Art Highlight : Lee Bul at The Hayward Gallery

We take a look back at our favourite exhibition of the summer : Lee Bul at The Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre...

A Visitor Walks Through Lee Bul's Immersive Installations at The Hayward Gallery

This summer a glittering environment, futuristic cyborgs, mirrored rooms, monstrous bodies, and a monumental Zeppelin were all part of the deal with Lee Bul's transformation exhibition at The Hayward Gallery.

The artist's much acclaimed work focuses on the body’s relationship to architectural space and references 20th century Modernism, on a much larger scale than the mid-century pioneers of the movement first imagined.

Lee Bul uses concepts and materials that are part of the Modernist movement taken into the twenty-first century to create a spectacular and performative show. She transforms the brutalist aesthetic of the gallery into a phantasmagoria of thought provoking environments to move through.

Materials include glass and metal, silicone and fibreglass, mother of pearl and silk - the effect is both intoxicating and overwhelming.

Inspired by the exhibitions atmosphere of immersive modernism, we've picked out some sublimely surreal modernist pieces now available at Grays...

Circular Illuminated Mirror, c1930s, Available at Matthew Foster

Belgian Wall Lights c1930's, Available at Matthew Foster

'Hockney' Design Vase by Peter Layton, Contemporary Available at Aurum

'Aluminaire' Oil on Canvas by Brendan Neiland, c1980. Available at Horton London 

Two Vintage Spotlight Lamp Projector Lamps, 20th Century, Available at Pushkin Antiques

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou

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.
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