31 May 2013

Bohemian Glass

Bohemia, now a part of the Czech Republic, has a long history and tradition in glass making. Decorative glassware produced in this region was famous for its excellent cut and engraving and it has always been a special favourite among collectors.

It all began when the glass workers discovered that potash combined with lime created a colourless glass that was more stable than the delicate Venetian glass. Although the history of Bohemian glass dates from the 13th century it was not until the second half of the 17th century when Bohemian glass witnessed a significant boom making it one of the leaders in the field. During this time the high level of craftsmanship was combined with various traditional and innovative techniques to create highly desirable artifacts. Bohemian artisans began to experiment with shapes and more complex engraving which was highly suited to this type of glass. Many other innovations were introduced such as enameling, lustred glass, milk glass as well as gilding to the edges and the body of the decorated area.

After a period of great prosperity Bohemian glass factories began to decline by 1750. The industry was yet again revived in the early 19th century when advances in the technology allowed the Bohemian glasshouses to produce fine glassware on a large scale.

Here at Grays our dealers Mousa Antiques and Mayfair Antiques have collected the best examples of Bohemian glass:

Bohemian green glass vase with two handles, beautifully painted with gold design, circa 1840. Offered by Mousa Antiques.

Bohemian green glass box with metal base and gold decoration, circa 1860. Offered by Mousa Antiques.

Bohemian blue glass goblet with twisted stem. Offered by Mousa Antiques.

A pair of red Bohemain overlay glass lustre vases and a centrepiece with hand painted portraits, 19th century. Offered by Mayfair Antiques.

A pair of green Bohemian overlay glass vases, 19th century. Offered by Mayfair Antiques.
 A pair of green Bohemian overlay glass lustre vases, 19th century. Offered by Mayfair Antiques.

For more information visit www.graysantiques.com

24 May 2013

The Extraordinary World of Blue and White Pottery

Our much anticipated blog, and a celebration of Dutch Delft, is finally here. During the very successful guided tours of our antique centre earlier this month, we saw a heightened interest in all things blue and white.

In particular, we saw a lot of interest for Dutch Delft, which denotes pottery produced from Delft in the Netherlands. In this country much of their wide spread celebrity comes from their English Transfer-ware cousins, which we can find in many museums and National Trust country house collections.

Tin-glazed pottery was made in the Netherlands from as early as the 16th century, with the finer works produced in Delft, but it was the trade with the East through the Dutch India Company that imported millions of pieces of Chinese porcelain in the 17th century that inspired awe in the western audience and triggered a true mania for its blue and white ceramics and works of art.

Distinctive for the cobalt blue design on a white background and with its superb workmanship and attention to detail, it originally captivated an exclusively wealthy market. Soon trade started going the other way, with royalty and wealthy, commissioning designs that were send to China to be made into a multitude of objects, and which together with the contemporary taste in tea, coffee and hot chocolate, completed an ensample of status symbol items and practices.

It became truly global when during the civil war in China in the middle of the 17th century, Japan stepped in picking up trade and craftsmanship by copying many of the Chinese designs and selling them back to Europe. Meanwhile, potters in Europe trying to emulate it kept the production active with the town of Delft becoming the most famous centre with this type of ceramic influenced by Italian Majolica and finding its way into England.

Here is a wonderful selection of Delft Blue that we've recently spotted in Grays...

Rare Dutch Delft lobed dish, decorated in under glaze blue and green and yellow enamels with a portrait of Queen Mary within a border of yellow tulips and green and blue foliage. Offered by Guest & Gray

Dutch Delft blue and white double gourd vase, circa 1700, decorated in the Wanli style with shaped figure panels. Offered by Guest & Gray

Dutch Delft wall plaque, circa 1730-40, decorated with a figure of Flora standing on an ornate plinth flanked by attendants seated in chariots, all within a moulded and shaped border of flower heads on a dark blue background. Offered by Guest & Gray

Large Dutch Delft faceted baluster vase and cover, circa 1700, decorated in the transitional style with figurative scenes of warriors with an attendant in a landscape of rockwork and trees, beneath a border of jui shaped lappets containing stylised flowers, all above a border of cartouches containing flowers alternating with stylised flower heads, further border at the base with stiff leaves, the faceted domed cover with similar borders. Offered by Guest & Gray

Pair of 18th century white Dutch Delft horses, cold painted, with moulded saddles and bridles on a plinth. Offered by Guest & Gray

18th century Dutch Delft jar of baluster form, painted with a large intricate cartouche, surmounted by an urn of flowers. The word Duinkerker inscribed across. Offered by Anita Gray

18th century Dutch Blue & White Delft apothecary jar of high shouldered cylindrical form finely painted and decorated with the inscription. Offered by Anita Gray

 Early 18th century Dutch Delft Jar of squat baluster form with slightly everted rim, decorated with an elaborate cartouche inscribed 'Straasburg', the cartouche with floral decorations dotted and diaper patterning
Offered by Anita Gray

For more information about Dutch Delft visit:

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou

17 May 2013

Swarovski Crystal Bridal Combs & Hair Slides

We're right in the middle of the Gatsby fever and 1920s glamour has never been more in style. If you are a fan of Gatsby-inspired headpieces, then you will love Nina Rai's new collection of Swarovski crystal bridal combs and head slides. Nina Rai also offers a timeless collection of beautiful hand crafted tiara's and headpieces. She takes her inspiration from the sophisticated glamour of the 1920s and her new collection of couture head slides are available in Grays Mews.

The hair slides are all made using Swarovski (Austrian and glass crystals) and are Rhodium plated. Designs are molded to the curvature of the head with rise so when worn can be seen from the front (not only from the side). Each piece is impeccably crafted and presented in a luxurious black box. The designs are also available in gun metal and gold setting, with a select colour palette. Perfect to add a touch of elegance and glamour to the evening.

Litan - Swarovski Crystal Peacock Feather Hair Slide
Madie with Clear Swarovski Crystal (and Glass) in Silver Rhodium plated setting. Available as Front or Back Head Slide. 

Arna - Swarovski Crystal Flower Drop Hair Slide
Richly encrusted in Clear Swarovski Crystal (and Glass) in Silver Rhodium plated setting. Available as Front or Back Head Slide. 

Starn - Swarovski Crystal Drop Hair Slide
Richly encrusted in Clear Swarovski Crystal (and Glass) in Silver Rhodium plated setting. Available as Front or Back Head Slide.

Sefan - Swarovski Crystal Feather Hair Slide
Made with Clear Swarovski Crystal (and Glass) in Silver Rhodium plated setting. Available as Front or Back Head Slide.  

Empha - Swarovski Crystal Drop Hair Slide
Made with Clear Swarovski Crystal (and Glass) in Silver Rhodium plated setting. Available as Front or Back Head Slide.  

Lefna - Swarovski Crystal Swirl Hair Slide
Made with clear Swarovski Crystal (and Glass) in Silver Rhodium plated setting. Available as Front or Back Head Slide.  

Leinc - Swarovski Crystal Swirl Hair Slide
Made with clear Swarovski Crystal (and Glass) in Silver Rhodium plated setting. Available as Front or Back Head Slide.  

'Sefan' Slide in Gun Metal Setting with Grey and Black Swarovski Crystal (and Glass)

'Lience' Slide in Gun Metal Setting with Grey and Black Swarovski Crystal (and Glass)

New design 'Sephire' Slide in Gold Setting - Richly encrusted with Topaz Shades Swarovski Crystal (and Glass).

For more information visit www.ninaraicouturehats.com

14 May 2013

Treasured Cameos & Magnificent Cameos; The Grays Collection

Here at Grays we have been watching the BBC series on Ancient Roman Art and are massively inspired about our own Grays collections. We are making aesthetic connections and are reassessing familiar objects. In particular it was the ancient cameos that drew our attention and made us exchange frenetic emails.

It is true to say that we all have a different relationship to objects, once we know how they are made or we have some personal knowledge of their original materials. What is immediately compelling about cameos in general are their beautiful delicacy and, paradoxically, their resilience and strength.

This is all part of their making process and raw materials used in their production. Because their production is so ancient, even more modern cameos would allude to a heritage connection. The extraordinary skills it takes to make a carving by hand, and object which is not moulded, means it's the techniques as well as the objects themselves that survive.

A cameo is an image carved in layered relief on a semi-precious gemstone, in antiquity normally onyx and agate, or glass and shell in modern work. It features a raised relief of an image engraved in layers revealing contrasting colours. The largest ancient cameo which has survived is the Great Cameo of France. It seems to have come from the treasury of the Byzantine Empire and through the Julio-Claudian Dynasty to the Treasury of the Sainte Chapelle and the Cabinet des Medailles of Louis XVI, and finally now on display in the Louvre, it is astonishingly engraved in twenty four layers.

Our cameos here at Grays are perhaps less historic but rather more accessible. Mostly Victorian but also as early as 16th century, which were either hand carved shells or glass by highly skilled artisans originating in Italy but becoming desirable in North Europe retaining the heritage of those early cameo days.

Circa 1870 Cameo Brooch, English. Offered by Kikuchi.

Large Blue Lava and Silver Cameo Brooch of Goddess Fortuna. The cameo is Italian from the Grand Tour period of the first quarter of the 19th century. Offered by Peter Szuhay

A Georgian Lava Cameo of Bacchus. This is a very fine bit of carving in lava. It would have been sold to a Grand Tour visitor, in Naples, circa 1820. Offered by The Antique Jewellery Company

A Carved Labradorite Cameo Set in Gold Enamel and Rubies Brooch/Pendant. Circa 1880. Offered by John Joseph. 

Shell Cameo Brooch, circa 1880. Offered by Satoe.

Two Coloured Agate Cameo. Probably Italian, circa 1550. Battle of the Seamonsters. Offered by Peter Szuhay.

16th Century Garnet Cameo with the portrait of St. Charles Borromeo as a Cardinal. Offered by Peter Szuhay.

Victorian Cameo Earrings. Set in 15ct gold and made circa 1850. They are shell cameos and were probably carved in Italy in the Classical style, which was very popular at the time. Offered by The Antique Jewellery Company.

Victorian Coral Cameo Brooch.Offered by Ting's Jewellery Brooch.

Victorian Carved Shell Cameo Brooch depicting a cherub rowing on the sea using a quiver of arrows as a raft and a single arrow as a mast. Offered by The Antique Jewellery Company.

For more information and cameos visit our website:

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou

10 May 2013

Tea Cups and Saucers

The common mug and a modern tea cup with saucer have not always been that way.

The history of tea cups spans hundreds of years and several continents as the popularity of tea spread from China and India to England and the West. Over time, tea cup designs changed as different cultures embraced tea. The original vessels used for preparing tea in China were made out of porcelain in two colours: white and blue and had no handles. In modern China and Japan the bowl shape, made out of porcelain and clay is still employed in the making of tea cups.

Silver tea cups without handles arrived in Europe during the reign of George II. The nobility used silver or pewter for their tea but the heat made the metal hot and impossible to hold.  Not until the mid 1750s was a small handle added to prevent the ladies form burning their fingers. As the custom of tea spread to Europe, the teaware range included the tea pot, sugar holders, milk/creamer containers, and even tea spoons to match.

In Britain tea cups began as dainty little porcelain cups with hand painted flowers and pale pink backgrounds. Hand painted tea cups were produced frequently right up until the 1920s when more commercialised mass production of tea cups evolved.

Some of the most consistently popular manufacturers of tea cups are: Limoges, Meissen, Haviland, Royal Doulton and Wedgwood.

Here at Grays you will find a great selection of tea cups and saucers in various styles and colours. Here are our favourite picks: 

Chinese tea bowl decorated with European design from Guest and Gray

An Art Nouveau silver four piece tea set from Van Den Bosch

 This lovely English Rose Cup and Saucer is available from Olympic Antiquer

Large Victorian Royal Staffordshire Cup and Saucer from Cekay

Shelley Baloon Tree Cup and Saucer from Deco Etcetera

18th century Meissen Cup and Saucer from K & M Antiques

Visit Grays to pick your favourite cup and saucer.

2 May 2013

Vintage Modes - Luxury Vintage Fashion in Grays Mews

For those in the know, Grays Mews is a must-visit destination for designer vintage fashion and unique statement pieces.  Located in the heart of the West End, moments from Bond Street and seconds from Oxford Street – Vintage Modes is home to a collective of specialist vintage dealers with more than a few rare fashion finds in their collections.

1960s beaded dress, £200.
Vintage Joseph silk blouse, £190.

Vintage Modes brings together four leading vintage fashion dealers, making it an essential stop for savvy vintage shoppers. From popular to rare pieces, the dealers’ collections include dresses, shoes, handbags, scarves, hats and accessories from the Victorian era through to the 1990s. Chanel, Biba, Jean Muir, Ossie Clark, Halston, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Mary Quant, Lanvin and Pucci are a few of the great designer names that can be regularly found at Vintage Modes.
Vintage silk blouse, £120.
1970s Pierre Cardin silk blouse, £125.
Vintage Modes is open Monday to Friday from 10am until 6pm.  Why not come and have a look for some vintage pieces to update to your summer wardrobe.
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