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.

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.
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