27 April 2017

A History of Bakelite

Bakelite is an early form of brittle plastic, made up of formaldehyde and phenol. One of the first plastics made of synthetic components- Bakelite was renowned for its electrical non-conductivity and heat-resistant properties. It was utilized in electrical insulators, radio and telephone casings, and to produce products ranging from kitchen utensils , to jewellery, to firearms !

In the 1920s it became a popular material for jewellery. Legendary designer Coco Chanel was one of the first to set a trend when she included Bakelite bracelets in her costume jewellery collections. Another was designer Elsa Schiaparelli who used Bakelite for jewellery and specially designed dress buttons.
Bakelite color chart 1924

Throughout World War II, Bakelite was used to manufacture patriotic wartime jewellery alongside a range of wartime equipment including pilot's goggles and field telephones.

Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue from 1963-1971, had a special passion for Bakelite, featuring it regularly in the taste-setting pages of her magazine. The plastic then went on to be used to create presentation boxes for Breitling watches.

The "retro" charm of old Bakelite products has made them collectible, and at Grays we have selected for you a range of wonderful dealers with some truly superb Bakelite items...

Bakelite Pavone Dancing Couple Brooch available from Linda Bee

An Art Deco chrome bangle with green/yellow Bakelite disk clasp available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery

Assorted Bakelite jewellery available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery
Vintage circular bakelite decorated box available from MGN Collectables

An Art Deco brooch with a central green Bakelite piece available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery

20 April 2017

A History of Malachite

Malachite may not enjoy the cachet of the diamond or the musgravite minerals, but it has a rich and intriguing history; having been mined in Ancient Egypt from as early as 4,000 BCE.

The Ancient Egyptians associated the colour green with death and resurrection as well as life and fertility. They believed in an afterlife of eternal paradise, which resembled their lives with the absence of pain or suffering, named the 'Field of Malachite'.

Since antiquity, malachite has been used to create gemstones, sculptures, ornaments; even powdered cosmetics! It was used as a pigment for green paint up until around 1800, when synthetic greens became widely available.

A fashion for malachite revived during the Victorian Age, used in fine jewellery for the English gentry and grand sculpture in the palaces of the Russian Tsars.

During the roaring twenties, malachite was back in vogue after the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922 led to a popular fascination with all things Egyptian.

Here at Gray's we have gone searching for some antique items containing this fascinating mineral...

 Apolished Malachite/Chrysocalla, Freeform, 15.5 x 10 inches, Contemporary, Democratic Republic of Congo. Offered by Al Khatib Antiques  

Gold Stick Pin with Malachite Cameo in the classical revival style c.1820 approx. 4.75 inches, British. Offered by Christopher Cavey & Associates

Gold and Malachite Salamander Tie Pin (two views), Victorian c.1880 approx 3.5 inches, Probably English. Offered by The Antique Jewellery Company

Art Deco Diamond and Malachite Drop Earrings, 1920-35, 32mm length, European. Offered by The Antique Jewellery Company

6 April 2017

Depictions of Empire in Art & Antiques

The British began to establish overseas colonies in the 16th century. By 1783 Britain had a large empire, with colonies in America and the West Indies. This 'first British Empire' came to an end after the American Revolution. However, in the 19th century, the British built a second worldwide empire, India, based on British sea-power and huge conquests in Africa.

At its height in 1922, the British Empire governed a fifth of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s total land area.

This colonisation had a profound effect on artists and last year's exhibition - Artist and Empire at Tate Britain - displayed some 200 paintings, drawings, sculptures and artefacts spanning more than 400 years, from the 16th century to the present.

We discovered a few artefacts at Grays associated with The British Empire.

Doulton Lambethware depicting General Gordon. Gordon was a British Army officer and administrator. He saw action in the Crimean War as an officer in the British Army. Available from Leon's Militaria.

Cold cast bronze of Winston Churchill. Available from Leon's Militaria.

Admiral Lord Nelson jug, Staffordshire Pottery, c1840s. Available from Leon's Militaria.

Duke of Wellington jug, Staffordshire Pottery, c1850s. Available from Leon's Militaria

Meat paste jar depicting the Crimean War, Prattware, c1850s. Available from Leon's Militaria.

Bronze East Indian soldier, 18-19th century. Available from Peter Sloane.

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