20 June 2013

Lockets: The Pinnacle of Romantic Jewellery

Queen Elizabeth I is recorded to have worn a locket ring with a portrait of her late mother, and the rise to power of the locket as a symbol of intimacy, favour and love has been unstoppable ever since. Lockets were worn by men and women, with men historically wearing them as cufflinks, on bracelets, watch fobs, rings and earrings.

An Art Nouveau, 18carat gold, double sided, locket set diamonds by John-Baptiste Emile Dropsy. This locket depicts a woman sporting a gloriously large hat. French, C1900. From Van Den Bosch Antiques.

But the lockets evolved from ancient amulets surrounded by myths and legends to the most pervasive and versatile piece of jewellery today. In ancient times a pouch or container that held a small collection of meaningful objects or special herbs would be worn around ones neck. Progressively these became recognisable metal lockets carrying important messages or medicine, and soon miniature portraits were added. The lockets themselves were jewel encrusted, and embossed patterns and monograms were engraved on precious metal. Many lockets featured cameos and idealised profiles of people.

A rare 18 carat gold vinaigrette locket which is surmounted by an eagle and mounted with a shield shape bloodstone. The grille inside is beautifully incised. It was made circa 1860. From The Antique Jewellery Company. 

Edwardian Large Gold Masonic Ball. This Masonic ball is unusual because it has been engraved on the outside. They are normally plain. It was made circa 1910-1920 and has hinges which open separately to form a cross. The later examples do not do this. It is 9 carat fold with silver gilt inside. From The Antique Jewellery Company

Prince Albert famously gave Queen Victoria an enamelled bracelet with eight coloured heart shaped lockets containing a lock of each of their children's hair. By the nineteenth century lockets had become heavy pieces of jewellery threaded on velvet ribbons in shapes of hearts, circles, oval or padlocks.
Art Nouveau Silver and Enamel Swivel Locket. The locket is made in the shape of a flower, which swivels open to reveal a locket compartment. From The Antique Jewellery Company

With the advent of photography personal representation was possible on a mass scale and it triggered the biggest transformation in lockets. From an elite overly elaborate item, lockets became some of the most desirable and wide spread pieces of jewellery.

A Jugendstil gold locket and chain by the Gebruder Falk, Fritz and Heinrich Falk, Pforzheim. From Van Den Bosch Antiques

During this period the Romantic Movement was at its height, validating emotions over the scientific rationalisation of nature. Placing emphasis on free expression, closeness to nature, emotions and spontaneity it found expression in familiar objects that would be kept physically nearby ones body.

A beautifully hand carved Whitby jet locket, C1880. From Linda Bee.

This scallop edged Victorian silver locket, hallmarked Birmingham 1882 has an unusual central engraved section. From Aurum

Lockets are an aesthetic statement of enduring feelings of love and devotion. Their link with tradition as well as their infinite guises makes them a perfect gift for most occasions but most especially their originality in conveying personal emotions.

A silver and gold cloisonne enamel locket by George Hunt, shaped similar to a fob watch case, set with a central garnet surrounded by peridots, pearls, white paste, opal and tourmalines. The reverse depicts The Judgment of Paris. The pendant opens to reveal an interior where a photograph can be kept behind the glass pane. From Van Den Bosch Antiques

Vintage Silver Locket. From Ting's Jewellery Box

Vintage Silver Locket. From Ting's Jewellery Box.

For more information visit www.graysantiques.com.

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou.

13 June 2013

It's Father's Day this Sunday!

Not sure what to give Dad this Father's Day? We know that finding the perfect Father's Day gift can be a real challenge. That is why we invite you to visit Grays for a fantastic selection of gift items that will make this day very special for your Dad. To help you make the right choice we have put together a selection of Father's Day gifts and ideas to suit all tastes, ages and budget.

 A pair of rose cut diamond French cufflinks, green and white enamel, circa 1890. Offered by Nigel Norman.

Dunhill pipe lighter with box, silver plate and oil lighter, circa 1930s. Offered by Kikuchi Antiques.

 Benson pocket watch in original case, 9ct gold. Offered by Raysil Antiques

Rolex Oyster watch, circa 1946. Offered by P. Cyrlin & Co.

Augsburg pocket dial in its original box, circa 18th century. Offered by Leons Militaria

Bentley Continental Sports Saloon (boxed), Corgi 224, circa 1962-1972. Offered by Automobila Ltd

Triang Transcontinental F7 A+B Diesel Units. Offered by Wheels of Steel.

Still feeling stuck? There is always the option to buy our Gift Vouchers available from Grays Reception. Happy Father's Day shopping at Grays.

7 June 2013

Mourning Jewellery: Majestic, Mystic or Sentimental?

Mourning jewellery is often described as sentimental. But jewellery and the changes in its fashion is also a manifestation of the prevailing social etiquette and how changes in social values transform people's perception of beauty and elegance.

Victorian Jet Necklace with Five Shell Cameo Pendants of Classic Females.
From Aurum.

There was a profound shift in jewellery in the early 19th century, which sees a move away from a fashion dominated by diamonds often mounted in silver, to elaborate pieces of naturalistic jewellery, pieces inspired by archaeological objects and items mounted with precious and semi-precious stones, where the focus is  human hair. Medieval and Renaissance designs are reworked into large pieces of jewellery balancing the crinoline and the heavy fabrics of women's clothing. Advances of techniques in the 17th and 18th centuries, such as the brilliant cut, saw diamonds sparkle in the candle light. But political and socio-economic changes put an abrupt end to their usefulness and desirability for a short while.

Mourning Brooch with Hair

That was the background when mourning jewellery came into prominence in Europe, though it had already been in existence since the seventeenth century.  Now Europe was coming out of the Napoleonic Wars and was starting to develop heavy industry at a fast pace. These changes transformed people's everyday lives, and gave new opportunities and new wealth.

Antique Amethyst on Ivory Ring 

But it was a material change that had far reaching emotional effects of loss and disillusionment, as people were trying to absorb everything that was going on around them. It created a reaction to Classicism and religious non-conformity. In an effort to swing back to the ideals of the High Church and Anglo Catholic values, inspiration for style and design in jewellery, as in other fields, was sought from the past.

Victorian Cameo Carving of Grecian Style set in Hand Carved Jet Pendant
From Linda Bee

Social mobility was accelerated and jewellery that denotes sentiment and a place in society became more appropriate. In England mourning jewellery reached the height of popularity with Prince Albert's death. Hair often became the primary motif in mourning jewellery because it is seen as the most delicate and lasting material and a reminder of life and death. Hair was woven and knotted to make brooches, lockets, rings, earrings, necklaces and items that had hair worked into the design were suitable for half-mourning.

Large Vintage Black Heart Pendant, French Jet, C1940s
From Linda Bee

These objects are material evidence that the person who died is still remembered and is part of the living, and as 'memento mori' for those alive, they are reminded of their own mortality. Mourning jewellery are extraordinary because they serve a social purpose, and are a reminder of past social values. They are also loaded with symbolism and originality by creating a new language of love and memory made up of elaborate design, precious and semi-precious stones, metal and organic material.

Victorian Pique Brooch, C1870
Edwardian Parkesine hand with wreath brooch
From Ting's Jewellery Box

Victorian Locket with Enclosed Miniature Painted Photograph
From Ting's Jewellery Box

For more information visit www.graysantiques.com

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou

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